HAYS COUNTY, Texas — Fire crews across Central Texas are battling multiple wildfires as a result of continued hot, dry conditions.
Smoke Rider fire
One fire, which the Texas A&M Forest Service has named the Smoke Rider fire, started on RM 165 in Hays County on Tuesday. The fire was full contained by Monday, Aug. 8.
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) reported just before 3 p.m. Tuesday that RM 165 was closed between FM 2325 and US 290 due to the fire. At 9 p.m. Tuesday, TxDOT said US 290 remained closed between RM 165 and US 281 due to the fire.
On Tuesday, the Hays County Office of Emergency Management said the fire was moving north. As of Monday, Aug. 8, the Texas A&M Forest Service said the Smoke Rider fire was estimated at 1,210 acres and was 100% contained.
The forest service previously reported the fire as being 800 acres and said the increase in acreage was due to more accurate mapping.
Mandatory evacuations were issued in the area but have been lifted as of Wednesday morning. No injuries have been reported.
A shelter was opened at Blanco United Methodist Church, located at 61 Pecan St. Meanwhile, the PAWS Shelter of Central Texas reported that its Dripping Springs campus had to be evacuated and all animals were moved to its Kyle campus, Firehouse Animal Health Center in Belterra and Stay-N-Play Pet Ranch.
As of Wednesday morning, PAWS has been given the go-ahead to bring the animals back to Dripping Springs.
Three helicopters, including two National Guard Blackhawk helicopters, are dropping water on small hot spots. Fixed-wing aircrafts are assisting with water and retardant.
Big Sky fire
The forest service also reported a fire burning northeast of Fredericksburg on Tuesday afternoon, off of Eckert Road, near Big Sky Drive and Foster Ranch Road. This fire has been named the Big Sky fire.
The City of Fredericksburg said a call came into Fredericksburg Fire EMS for a grass fire in the area at approximately 12:11 p.m. Tuesday. At approximately 12:18 p.m., the Wildland Task Force Level 1 was activated, and resources were requested from Llano and Blanco counties.
Resources were received from Bexar, Llano, Kendall, Kerr, Mason and McCullough counties, as well as the Texas A&M Forest Service, including ground crews and aircraft. The City said local resources remained on the scene overnight, monitoring points of concern.
The forest service said a plane helped secure the southwest corner of the fire while helicopters helped to cool hotspots. Dozers made progress building the line, and additional crews and aircraft were expected to be on scene Wednesday.
As of Wednesday night, the Big Sky fire is estimated at 1,459 acres and is 98% contained. Officials said no one growth occurred Saturday and that a flare-up was quickly suppressed. No homes have been lost, but three barn or shed-type structures have been destroyed.
Officials said around 15 homes were threatened Tuesday and three barns burned. Some of the residents were evacuated Tuesday and were able to return back home Wednesday. Fire officials said they were dealing with rough terrain when fighting the fire.
“It's very hilly and it's very rocky, the crews have a hard time moving, they are having to move away from their trucks and pull hand lines into those areas that are burned because they can't maneuver vehicles into there. So it’s very hard work in the heat conditions. The weather conditions are very extreme so it is hard on the crews on the ground,” said Justin Calhoun, emergency coordinator for the City of Fredericksburg.
The City said current weather conditions make predicting when the fire will be completely contained difficult, but crews will remain on the scene until it is fully contained.
Both Enchanted Rock and Pedernales Falls state parks are closed Wednesday due to the active fires. Drivers are asked to avoid the area.
The cause has been ruled as a mechanical malfunction on a piece of equipment, which sparked the fire.
Blue Bluff fire
Finally, officials have also responded to a brush fire in eastern Travis County.
The Texas A&M Forest Service said this is the Blue Bluff fire that has flared up again after being 100% contained.
As of Wednesday afternoon, this 45-acre fire was 95% contained, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service. The Austin Fire Department said just before 10 p.m. Tuesday that the fire was completely surrounded with dozer lines and all forward progress was stopped earlier in the evening. Acres of spot fires on the interior remained and crews were expected to be on the scene overnight and on Wednesday.
No structures have been reported as damaged and no injuries have been reported from the reignited Blue Bluff fire.
FM 973 at FM 969 and Decker were closed due to the fire.
The Texas A&M Forest Service said it responded to 26 wildfires for 3,593 acres on Tuesday. The service said fire danger persists Wednesday for the western and eastern Hill Country, Cross Timbers, Rolling Plains and North Texas.
For a map of fire activity around Texas, click here.
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