The Athens Review
As temperatures soared past the century mark, Henderson County firefighters battled heat and flames in several locations.
The biggest blaze was a pasture and hay fire near the intersection of Farm-to-Market Highway 85 and Race Track Road west of Seven Points.
Seven Points Volunteer Fire Department Chief A.J. Kirksey said the fire spread to 72 acres while destroying 100 round bales of hay. The blaze took eight departments about five hours to quench. A total of 65 fire personnel and 26 apparatus from the various departments responded to the fire.
“One of the guys at the fire said when they got there, it wasn’t that big,” Kirksey said. “All of a sudden, the wind got up and it started to spread.”
Kirksey said the hay had been freshly baled and the grass was low and dry. With the Fourth of July holiday approaching, he’s concerned about the fire danger over the next few days.
“It’s getting drier and with the fireworks and people getting out of school and camping it gets worse,” Kirksey said. “If we get a little rain, they relax and start burning trash, then here we come.”
Henderson County has wooded areas that can be especially tough for firefighters, Kirksey said.
“We have trees down here that are 50 to 100 feet tall,” Kirksey said. “The cedar trees are just like gasoline for a fire. It crowns and spreads to the next tree.”
Kirksey said the department’s main concern in a pasture fire is to keep it from spreading.
“Our main concern is to protect the structures — people’s houses,” Kirksey said.
On Monday, the county was under a high fire danger alert from the Texas Forest Service. The Keetch Byrum Drought Index places Henderson County in the 500 to 600 range on the 800 point scale. The KBDI indicates how much moisture is in the land, ranging from zero, meaning total saturation, to 800, meaning no moisture whatsoever. The index forecasts that within 14 days, the Henderson County average will be 533. The wettest part of the county stood at 467 and the driest at 601.
A year ago at this time, the county rating stood between 500 and 600. By September, the index average for the county had increased from 600 to 700. Navarro County adopted a burn ban on Monday with a KBDI reading of 575.