EASTLAND, Texas — Dry and windy conditions have been fueling wildfires in different areas west of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex since Thursday.
Almost immediately, separate wildfires in Eastland County combined to form a sprawling complex. By Monday night, this Eastland Complex fire had burned more than 54,000 acres as crews continued to battle it.
The rain and severe weather conditions across North Texas throughout Monday afternoon and evening helped the cause but did not extinguish the fire. According to the Texas A&M Forest Service, the storm systems provided dampening moisture along the northern side of the Eastland Complex fire, but a large portion of the southern portion of Eastland Complex received little to no moisture as a result of the storms.
By Monday night, the fire was only 60 percent contained, according to Texas A&M Forest Service, which does not project the fire to be wholly contained until at least Friday.
A wildfire along the Hood and Erath county line also prompted evacuations on Monday morning.
The Texas A&M Forest Service has a map where the public can view the current locations of wildfires.
Hood County wildfire and evacuations
The Texas A&M Forest Service is calling the latest wildfire along the Hood and Erath county line the Big L fire.
As of 3:15 p.m. Monday, the Big L fire had burned almost 11,000 acres but was 50 percent contained. Earlier Monday, officials confirmed that the forward progression of the fire had been stopped.
An evacuation order for the City of Lipan that was put into place early Monday morning was also lifted by 9 a.m., according to officials.
Firefighters set up a line at Star Hollow Road south of Lipan, and that’s where they stopped it from spreading. As of Monday afternoon, County Road 148 was the sole area road closed to traffic as a result of the fire; it was closed to repair and replace power infrastructure.
Officials with the forest service said the fire started in Erath County but then moved into Hood County and is going north.
Since noon Sunday, Hood County officials said four firefighters have been injured. One received first-degree burns; she was taken to the hospital, treated and released. Another was taken to the hospital, but not treated. Two others became dehydrated and were temporarily taken out of service.
Hood County Fire Marshal Jeff Young said the fire moved at about the speed of the wind at 20 mph, making stopping it more difficult.
"The grass and the fire is burning so fast we’re having a hard time catching it," he said. "We can’t get any guys right up in front of it because they’re going to get overrun with it.”
Young said the fire expanded from 200 acres to 3,400 in just two hours. It's still unclear how it started. By 4 p.m. Sunday, it had destroyed six buildings.
“In these conditions and the way this fire moves, we’ve also got to make sure we don’t get injured or killed in the line of duty," Young said. "It’s a monumental task.”
The city of Tolar was initially under evacuation, but that order was also quickly removed, according to Hood County officials.
The National Weather Service also issued an evacuation order for residents located northeast of Bluff Dale along County Road 148. Evacuees were urged to report to Bluff Dale High School when it was safe to do so.
At a gas station off 377, several residents gathered, waited and watched as the plume of smoke from the fire moved north.
Elizabeth Tubbs learned from a neighbor her home had been destroyed.
"I don’t know what I’m gonna do," she said. "The only thing I have is in my truck, clothes-wise, but I’ll be ok."
Watching the smoke, she said she worried most about her cattle and cats.
“I’m just looking over there because I bet that’s my place," she said. “Sad I can’t get over there even though I probably couldn’t do anything.”
Said Tyler Davis, another nearby resident: “You don’t ever think this will happen to you, but when it comes knocking on your back doorstep, it gets real, real quick."
Flames came within 100 yards of Davis' doorstep Sunday, but his home was spared.
"It’s going to be life-altering for a lot of folks," Davis said. "People out here have a lot of land, a lot of cattle, and that costs a lot of money and when that goes up in smoke, it changes lives."
On Sunday afternoon, another evacuation order was issued for residents near County Road 114 and County 117 north of Huckabay, about 10 miles north of Stephenville, in Erath County. This was due to a separate fire.
The Hood County Fairgrounds is available for cattle that have been evacuated. It is located at 641 Reunion Court.
Eastland Complex by the numbers
As of 8:30 p.m. Sunday, there were seven fires burning in Eastland County that combined into the Eastland Complex: Kidd Fire (42,300 acres), Blowing Basin Fire (258 acres), Cedar Mountain Fire (180 acres), Mangum Fire (11 acres), Wheatfield Fire (7,200 acres), Oak Mott Fire (4,000 acres) and Walling Fire (383 acres).
While these fires were in different locations around Eastland County, the Texas A&M Forest Service was referring to the overall incident as the Eastland Complex.
A total of around 54,000 acres had burned by 8:30 p.m. Sunday, with the fire 30% contained.
The Texas A&M Forest Service says at least 50 homes have burned.
The National Weather Service issued an evacuation order for any residents in Eastland County near FM 2731 and CR 230 between Highway 183 and Texas Highway 206.
According to the NWS, a "fast moving wildfire" was located in the area. Residents were urged to evacuate north using Highway 206.
Ways to help
There are numerous ways people can help those who are affected by the wildfires in Eastland County and other surrounding areas.
Relief funds and donation drop-off locations have been set up. More information on how to help and receive help can be found here.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration on Friday for 11 counties in response to the wildfires.
Those counties are: Brooks, Brown, Coleman, Comanche, Eastland, Grayson, Mason, Potter, Randall, Reynolds and Williamson.
The disaster declaration allows the use of all available state resources to aid in fighting the fires.
Texas Department of Emergency Management assessment
The Texas Department of Emergency Management is asking residents to help the state department assess the damage caused by the wildfires. This can help the state determine the best ways to assist affected residents.
The survey can be found here.
Eastland ISD says disaster assistance from the Texas Department of Emergency Management can be found at Siebert Elementary at 100 Little Maverick Trail, Eastland, TX 76448.
Residents can also report damage at the location. They will be open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., according to the district.
Volunteers with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief (SBTC Disaster Relief) were sent Saturday to Eastland County to respond to the wildfires. A team began serving breakfast to survivors and first responders in Carbon. The crew is expected to serve about 100 hot meals twice a day as needed.