Editor: Shannon Cottongame
July 14, 2022
Firefighters have stayed busy in Hill and Bosque counties battling a number of wildfires in recent days, most notably the “Hard Castle Fire” in Bosque County.
The Texas A&M Forest Service was assisting local firefighters over the weekend as the fire, which began Wednesday evening, July 6, continued to burn near Walnut Springs.
The Forest Service reported that the wildfire began as a rekindle of a previously contained fire that was started by power lines.
As of The Lakelander’s press time Sunday, the fire had impacted 540 acres, claimed one structure and was 70 percent contained.
The fire was approximately three miles long and a half-mile wide Sunday, and the Forest Service reported that it was stopped just a quarter mile from reaching a home. “Firefighters have worked tirelessly to keep this fire from reaching Walnut Springs,” officials said in Sunday’s update.
Firefighters were expected to be on scene into this week, and area residents have stepped up over the past week to donate water, ice, snacks and money to departments that have spent days fighting the fire.
No evacuations were being ordered as of the weekend, but residents in the area were told last week to be prepared to leave if needed.
Crews were continuing to build and strengthen containment lines as the week began, and engines were patrolling lines for hot spots. Aircraft were also making drops on the fire after scooping water from Lake Whitney. Boaters were advised to stay away from the areas being utilized by aircraft.
Authorities are asking the public to observe the local burn bans and be extremely cautious with anything that could spark a fire.
“The drought is causing real problems for our firefighters,” Bosque County Emergency Management reported in a social media post last week. “Extreme fire behavior is challenging our firefighters more than normal with fires smoldering longer and spotting (dropping embers far in advance of the fire), which creates multiple fire fronts that must be addressed.”
According to Bosque County Emergency Management, the majority of recent fires have started along roadways. These can begin when vehicles drag chains, discard cigarettes and other activities that create a spark in dry conditions.
Hill County firefighters have also been fighting fires throughout the county.
A fire in the 200 block of Lake Whitney Drive off of Farm Road 933 claimed several acres and rekindled multiple times before it was extinguished Wednesday, June 29. That fire was caused by fireworks and temporarily shut down Farm Road 933 due to heavy smoke in the roadway. Whitney, Lakeview, White Bluff, Woodbury, 2604, Blum, Covington, Peoria and Rio Vista firefighters responded.
Multiple fire departments battled a fire involving bales of hay off of Farm Road 934 northeast of Hillsboro last Wednesday that burned 75 to 100 acres.
A number of smaller fires have also kept firefighters busy in their own service areas and assisting nearby departments.
Many areas of both Hill and Bosque counties remained in the “high to very high” risk category for wildfires as the week began, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.
State officials expect 2022 to be a record year for wildfires as drought conditions continue. The Forest Service has responded to over 1,100 fires so far this year and says most fires are started by humans.