UPDATE: Rain provides hope and caution for East Texas firefighters

Published: Jun. 21, 2011 at 1:07 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 21, 2011 at 8:39 PM CDT
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EAST TEXAS - (KTRE) - Rain for wildfire-damaged East Texas has provided some temporary relief for emergency personnel hopeful that weather could help knock down the flames.

An approaching cold front has combined with plenty of Gulf moisture to generate showers and thunderstorms for parts of East Texas on this first day of summer.

The heaviest rainfall amounts have taken place near the southern end of Lake Sam Rayburn, stretching from Colmesneil to Jasper, and further northeast towards Hemphill.  The heavy rain in these areas has certainly been a blessing for the ongoing fires in northern Jasper county.

The rain relief has improved conditions and now firefighters working on the Bearing Fire in Trinity County are reporting 60% containment as of Tuesday afternoon.

Texas Forest Service officials stated in a news release that as the incident management teams combine, they continue to emphasize a priority of firefighter and public safety. While all roadways in the fire zone are currently open to traffic, conditions could warrant road closures and/or evacuations. The public is encouraged to stay aware when driving in the area and stay informed through the local news media and the Texas Forest Service website at The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) reminds motorists to remain alert and watch for fire traffic.

The release also stated, "Fire managers would like to thank those who have provided donations; the volunteers now have a generous supply of food and water. Financial contributions can be made to the American Red Cross or to Trinity County by calling the county treasurer at (936) 642-1443. Those who would like more information are invited to attend a public meeting at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Centerville School. Additional information including maps is available at"

Firefighters managed to build a containment wall all the way around the Bearing fire which started at the Polk/Trinity County line and spread, burning more than 20,000 acres in its path.  Fire and emergency personnel from Polk County, along with about 12 volunteer fire departments, the Texas Forest Service and the U-S Forest Service are holding the lines in Trinity County.  "Residents are no long in danger.  We hope this fire will be a non-issue by tomorrow, much of that will depend on what the weather does," said Larry Shine, Polk County Emergency Management Coordinator.

Firefighters are paying close attention to weather conditions and hope the current system brings more rain than the predicted lightning and high winds that oftentimes accompany these systems.  They said wind and lightning could serve to re-ignite the fires, however, they remain optimistic that the rain will result in cooler temperatures and higher humidity, which will provide a much needed break in conditions.

"If you have not seen as much rain today as you would have liked, don't hold out hope just yet.  With plenty of moisture in place tonight and tomorrow, rain chances will remain rather high for at least one more day.  Therefore, make sure you dust off that umbrella and keep it with you throughout this afternoon and then again on Wednesday, just in case you find yourself underneath a heavy downpour or two," said KTRE Meteorologist Brad Hlozek.

This is good news coming on the heels of yet another outbreak Monday night in northern Tyler County.  A mandatory evacuation for the Rockland community was issued after fire broke out, consuming about 250 acres, 13 miles north of Woodville.  Fire officials Tuesday said it is now safe for residents to return to their homes.  The Rockland fire is about 90% contained.

In Jasper County, the Powerline fire is about 75% contained and firefighters said they are spending much of Tuesday doing "mop up" work.  They said this fire seems to have slowed significantly after burning about 4,000 acres.

To get a more detailed look at your forecast, you can head to our StormTracker Weather Center (  It is there where you can also view our live streaming radar throughout the day.  If you would like to take over the controls and zoom down to your local streets, please try our Interactive Radar. (link on weather page at the top)

If you have an Android or I-phone, you can now download our new KTRE 9 Weather application, which is now available on those smartphones.

Texas Forest Service spokesman Justice Jones said Tuesday that officials are monitoring the forecast for Grimes County, which includes a chance of showers and thunderstorms. Jones raised concerns about thunderstorms that can bring variable winds.

Jones says residents of more than 1,800 homes and businesses that had to be evacuated Monday have no indication on when they'll be allowed to return. Wildfires have burned about 5,000 acres in the area, 60 miles northwest of Houston. The fires were 10 to 15 percent contained Tuesday.

Jones says two people have been injured and about 30 structures destroyed. The Texas Forest Service says 225 of the state's 254 counties have burn bans.


  • Texas Forest Service responded yesterday to seven new large fires.
  • A Type 2 Incident Management Team has been requested to assist with the Bearing and Power Line fires in East Texas.
  • Due to the shortage of aviation resources, four National Guard Blackhawk helicopters and two Chinooks were activated.
  • The Cowboy (Jasper Co., 184 acres), DHI (Pecos Co., 8,000 acres), Patillo (Erath Co., 300 acres), Masterson (Moore Co., 5,000 acres), Schaffner (Clay Co., 400 acres) and the Father's Day (Cochran Co., 3,000 acres) fires were contained yesterday.
  • Sadly, yesterday two wildland firefighters with Florida Division of Forestry were killed on the Blue Ribbon Fire in Hamilton County, Florida. Two other firefighters were also injured on this wildfire. The fire had started June 16 and was initially contained; however recent extreme fire weather caused the fire to flare up again. Please keep these firefighters and their families in your thoughts and prayers.

  • Texas Forest Service currently is responding to 22 large fires that have burned 132,750 acres.

  • 225 of the 254 Texas counties are reporting burn bans.

New large fires from yesterday (more than 100 acres in timber, 300 acres in lighter fuels):

ROCKLAND, Tyler County. 500 acres, 90 percent contained. This fire is burning 13 miles north of Woodville. The community of Rockland was evacuated.

WEISE, Haskell County. 5,000 acres, 75 percent contained. This fire is burning 9 miles east of Haskell.

WHITE HAT, Coke and Nolan Counties. 20,000 acres, 5 percent contained. Voluntary evacuations around the community of Laryngeal. Heavy air tankers and single-engine air tankers dropped on this fire. This fire is burning 4 miles south of Laryngeal.

WILSON RANCH, Tom Green County. 4,300 acres, 30 percent contained. This fire is located north of the community of Grape Creek. Structure protection in progress.

COBBLE RD. #1, Howard County. 1,200 acres, 90 percent contained. This fire is burning 2 miles west of Big Spring. 1 home destroyed and 100 threatened.

MITCHELL RANCH 2, Rocket County. 3,000 acres, 5 percent contained. This fire is burning 31 miles southwest of Ozone.

BOYKEN RD, Howard County. 3,500 acres, unknown containment. Over 100 homes threatened. This fire is burning just south of Big Spring.

Un contained fires from previous days (more than 100 acres in timber, 300 acres in lighter fuels):

BEARING, Polk and Trinity Counties.  20,222 acres, 40 percent contained.  The fire is burning near Corona.  Two homes and six cabins were destroyed and dozens have been evacuated.

POWER LINE, Jasper County.  3,500 acres, 75 percent contained.  The fire is burning just south of Lake Sam Rayburn Dam.  Five hundred homes are threatened. 

SMAC, Brooks County.  35,000 acres, 50 percent contained.  Extreme fire behavior was observed again yesterday on this fire 13 miles southwest of Flurries.

HUDSON COMPLEX, Sterling County.  3,160 acres, 95 percent contained.  The fire is burning 34 miles northwest of San Angelo.

FAULKNER, Rocket County.  2,200 acres, 95 percent contained.  900 acres, 40 percent contained.  The fire is burning southwest of Big Lake.

4097, Newton County.  410 acres, unknown containment.  Good progress was made on the fire yesterday.

MIDWAY (COWBOY CHURCH), Walker County.  3,000 acres, 25 percent contained.  The fire is burning near Huntsville.  One hundred sixty-three homes were evacuated near Midway.  The fire is burning on both sides of Interstate 45 with crowning in the timber.  Eight Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System (TIFMAS) engines responded last night from the Houston area to assist in addition to TFS resources.

DYER MILL, Grimes County.  4,000 acres, unknown containment.  Twenty-six homes were reported destroyed on this fast-moving fire 3 miles east of Whitehall.  Over 1,000 homes and businesses evacuated.

LONGFELLOW, Pecos County.  3,500, 95 percent contained.  The fire is burning in heavy brush 40 miles southeast of Ft. Stockton. One residence was saved.

McDONALD II, Clay County.  5,915 acres, 50 percent contained.  The fire was threatening the town of Heritage.  Evacuations of numerous homes and businesses took place last night.

ROCK CREEK, Stonewall County.  6,000 acres, 50 percent contained.  The fire is burning seven miles northeast of Spearmint in tall grass.

RIDDLE, Stonewall County.  600 acres, 80 percent contained.  The fire is burning seven miles southeast of Spearmint.

JRM, Proclamation County.  7,000 acres, 75 percent contained.  This fire is a complex of four lightning fires near Proclamation.  Twelve homes are threatened.

NANCE RANCH, Randall County.  350 acres, 90 percent contained.  Two SEATs and a TFS task force worked the fire burning in grass six miles east of Canyon.  Twelve homes were saved.

FINIS, Young County. 393 acres, 90 percent contained.

Weather Outlook

A weak cold front will be drifting across central and west Texas today. Overall winds will be less and relative humidifies higher along with generally cooler temperatures. There strongest winds will be over the east half of the state and the northern panhandle. The lowest relative humidifies will be over west Texas. The hottest temperatures of 100 plus will be near the Rio Grande valley with 80s and 90s elsewhere. Isolated to scattered thunderstorms can be expected over central to east Texas with east Texas getting the most thunderstorm activity.

Fireworks safety tips:

Texas Forest Service does not make decisions regarding fireworks restrictions or outdoor burn bans. The state agency does, however, provide drought information to county government officials. Under state law, each county is tasked with making its own decisions regarding fireworks restrictions and burn bans.

  • Follow all county and city laws regarding fireworks use.
  • Only use fireworks outdoors and away from dry grass and buildings.
  • Read the labels and use only as directed, with adult supervision.
  • Keep water, wet towels, and a garden hose nearby.
  • Allow fireworks to cool completely before handling, and discard used fireworks into a bucket of water.

Prevention messages:

  • Fire wise ( is a resource for residents to protect their home and property from wildfire.
  • Adjust the safety chains on your trailers to ensure they don't drag and create sparks that can cause roadside starts.
  • Never leave a campfire unattended. Always have tools available to put out a fire.
  • Remove flammable materials from around your home.
  • Develop an evacuation plan for your family. Resources are available on the Fire wise website and at
  • Obey outdoor burning bans. Don't burn trash or debris when conditions are dry or windy. Unsafe burning of leaves, brush, household trash and other debris is the No. 1 cause of wildfires in Texas.
  • Keep lawn mowers and agricultural equipment in proper working condition and avoid rocks and other materials which might cause a spark.
  • To report suspicious activities, call the Arson Hotline at (888) 501-3850. If possible, safely obtain an accurate description of the person and/or vehicle (including the license number) before calling the hotline.
  • Humans cause more than 90 percent of all wildfires. Do not weld or cut without a spotter, a water source and a shovel.

Fire numbers:

Since fire season started on Nov. 15, 2010, Texas Forest Service and area fire departments have responded to 12,362 fires that have burned 3,080,013 acres. These figures are updated every Monday and Friday.