Fire crews face intolerable conditions fighting Trinity/Polk Co. wildfire

TRINITY COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - The Texas Forest Service reports the ongoing wildfire in southern Trinity County is still extremely dangerous. At least two homes and six hunting cabins have burned. Fire-fighters are working hard to keep residents and property safe.

Twelve area volunteer fire departments are at the scene, plus fire-fighters from the U.S. and Texas Forest Services.  Some firefighters have come from as far as Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Colorado. A small NIMO team is also on its way to help with the battle.

"We're trying to stop the fire," said Ralph Cullom with the Texas Forest Service. "It has not been contained."

The firefighter command post is set up at the Centerville ISD building off Hwy 94. Trinity County Judge Doug Page spent the day at the post helping with emergency management and keeping tabs on the wildfire.

"My biggest concern is keeping our residents safe," said Page.

The Texas Forest Service is also managing their resources from the post.

"It's a good location," said Cullom. "Not directly in front of the fire - where all the resources can gather, stage. As needed they can be dispatched from here."

Three helicopters are flying over to fight the flames from above. Eight bulldozers are on the scene as well, and more have been requested to fight the 15,000 acre fire that is only 40 percent contained.

"Conceivably, if it gets larger and larger the wind could shift later today or tomorrow, and head toward a community," said Cullom. "We have utmost priority of stopping the fire as quick as we can."

Firefighters patrol the flanks of the fire looking for hot spots caused by burning debris Sunday afternoon.

"A spark could easily jump across a fire line, across a highway, across a four-lane highway - and start another fire," said Cullom.

High winds, high temperatures, low humidity and the ongoing drought in East Texas make any fire unpredictable. County Judge Page said another evacuation isn't out of the question.

"I don't know for sure at this time but it's possible," said Page. "Back in the Helmic community or possibly even Apple Springs."

Fire crews continue to brave the intolerable conditions on Father's Day to prevent more homes from being threatened.

"They could suffer heat stroke or heat exhaustion," said Cullom. "A lot of them are volunteers and we forget what volunteer means - not getting paid, risking their lives."

The mandatory and voluntary evacuations have been lifted. Also, there are not any road closures. However, fire crews still urge residents to use extreme caution if they do decide to return home and stay off the road as much as possible. If any more evacuations are mandated, centers are set up in Groveton, and Lufkin as a back-up.

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