Texas wildfires path LIVE – Sheriff's deputy dies in Eastland County as Gov Abbott orders evacuations in 11 counties

A DEPUTY passed away in Eastland County on Friday as Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered evacuations in 11 counties.

The Cisco Police Department took to Facebook to mourn the death of Deputy Barbara Fenley, who died while trying to save people from the fires.

The department’s post read: “It is with very heavy hearts that today we learned of the death of one our Eastland County Deputies who put it all on the line last night trying to save people from the horrible fires."

Gov. Abbott issued a disaster declaration on Friday for 11 counties across Texas.

The declaration was put in place in response to the ongoing wildfires across the state and the wildfires that merged to form what fire officials call a “complex."

As of Friday night, the Eastland Complex fires covered at least 45,000 acres, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.

Read our Texas wildfires live blog for the latest news and updates…

  • Danielle Cinone

    Air quality concerns in Houston

    Dr. Sami Hossri, a critical care pulmonologist at UTHealth Houston, told Fox 26 Houston that "poor air quality" could be a problem for Houston residents.

    Hossri told the news outlet: "Especially a few hours after the event.

    "Just like now, we see in Houston that everything is clear. You can still have poor air quality, but just not see it."

  • Danielle Cinone

    How do wildfires in the United States start?

    According to the National Park Service, approximately 85 percent of wildfires in the United States are caused by people.

    "Human-caused fires result from campfires left unattended, the burning of debris, equipment use and malfunctions, negligently discarded cigarettes, and intentional acts of arson," NPS explains.

  • Danielle Cinone

    Cisco Police Department mourns deputy death

    The Cisco Police Department took to Facebook to mourn the death of one of their deputies.

    The department's post read: "It is with very heavy hearts that today we learned of the death of one our Eastland County Deputies who put it all on the line last night trying to save people from the horrible fires.

    "Our sister Barbara Fenley will be deeply missed. She was a special servant and an attribute to our profession.

    "We will kneel in prayer for her family, friends and colleagues as they mourn. RIP dear friend, you will be missed."

  • Danielle Cinone

    Temporary Flight Restriction

    On Friday afternoon, a temporary flight restriction was put in place over the Eastland Complex in Eastland County, Texas.

    Hours later, the Texas A&M Forest Service took to Twitter to say that the fires covered an estimated 45,383 acres.

    TAMFS also noted that the fires were 15 percent contained.

    The Twitter update read: "Crews focused on structure protection and building containment line with dozers today.

    Aircraft dropped water/retardant to help slow fire spread and protect structures."

  • Danielle Cinone

    'This is what you're going to get'

    Ranger Fire Department Chief Darrell Fox – who saw a Baptist church in Ranger, Texas, destroyed on Thursday – told the Associated Press the fire may have started from a barbecue pit.

    Fox told the news outlet: "We had everything ready throughout the county.

    "But when we have the winds like there was … and the humidity down to nothing, this is what you’re going to get.”

  • Danielle Cinone

    Dozens of homes destroyed in West Texas wildfires

    During a midday press briefing, Texas Governor Greg Abbott revealed 50 homes in West Texas were destroyed by the wildfires.

    Additionally, one death was confirmed as more than 58 fire departments are working to contain the fire.

    According to CBS 11, the Eastland Fire chief noted that hundreds of acres were burned.

    The fire chief said the burned land resembled a "lunar landscape."

  • Danielle Cinone

    'Dry grass' supporting wildfire activity

    On Friday morning, the Texas A&M Forest Service explained in a news release: "Post-frontal conditions, including strong winds over extremely dry vegetation, will support wildfire activity in South Texas where there is a low to moderate potential for large wildfires that may be resistant to control.

    "Additionally, critically dry to extremely dry grass will continue to support wildfire activity in the Cross Timbers, Rolling Plains and Hill Country regions through Sunday."

  • Danielle Cinone

    Aerial footage of fires in West Texas

    Governor Greg Abbott shared aerial footage on Friday of the fires in Texas

    Alongside the five-second video clip, Abbot tweeted: "Just finished a view from the air of the fires in West Texas including near Eastland.

    "Now to a meeting with local officials and firefighters.

    "We thank all who are working around the clock to contain these fires."

  • Danielle Cinone

    How many square miles were burned?

    The Texas A&M Forest Service said the fires burned approximately 70.9 square miles (184 kilometers) by Friday afternoon.

    As the wildfires continued burning, only four percent were contained.

  • Danielle Cinone

    Potential for elevated fire risk

    The National Weather Service in Forth Worth warned that a good portion of western and central Texas potentially face an elevated fire risk.

    The risk comes from gusty winds and drought conditions, NWS Fort Worth explains.

    National Weather Service meteorologist Madison Gordon said: "We had a fairly dry summer last year and that continued into the fall and winter."

    Gordon said there's now “a lot of fuel available in fields" after the passage of winter, according to AP News.

    The weather service suggests people living near the wildfires lookup local burn bans and be cautious when using anything that could start a grass fire.

  • Danielle Cinone

    Texas A&M Forest Service prioritizes ‘life’ and ‘safety’

    Texas A&M Forest Service spokesperson Matthew Ford revealed that approximately 475 homes have been evacuated in the town of Gorman, but it’s unknown how many structures have burned.

    On Friday morning, Ford said: “Until we get more boots on the ground, we don’t have an estimate [of the numbers].

    “Our top priority is life, safety and protection of structures.”

  • Danielle Cinone

    'Rare, high impact wildfire phenomenon'

    The Texas A&M Forest Service warned that Oklahoma and Kansas could feel the effects of the “rare, high impact wildfire phenomenon."

    According to Nebraska’s forest service, most of the state will be under extreme fire risk throughout the weekend.

  • Danielle Cinone

    What strengthened the Texas wildfires?

    The wildfires were strengthened by drought conditions and merged to create what officials describe as a "complex."

    The "complex" was burning approximately 120 miles west of Dallas, near Eastland, according to The Associated Press.

    USDA Fire Service definites a "complex" as: "Two or more individual incidents located in the same general area which are assigned to a single incident commander or unified command."

  • Danielle Cinone

    Deputy dies while attempting to save people from wildfires

    Deputy Barbara Fenley passed away while attempting to save people from the wildfires on Thursday night, the Cisco Police Department revealed.

    According to KDFW-TV FOX 4 News, the Eastland County deputy died while trying to save people as an evacuation was underway.

    The police department said the officer was "a special servant and an attribute to our profession."

    "We will kneel in prayer for her family, friends and colleagues as they mourn," Cisco PD added.

  • Josie Rhodes Cook

    Smoky conditions in Houston

    The wildfires in parts of Texas caused smoky conditions hundreds of miles away from where they were burning.

    The Houston Fire Department and the city’s Office of Emergency Management sent out automated phone messages alerting area residents to smoke and ash on Friday morning, USA Today reported.

    A local anchor tweeted a video of hazy skies on Friday afternoon.

  • Josie Rhodes Cook

    Gov Abbott: 'Practice wildfire safety'

    On Twitter, Governor Greg Abbott asked the people of Texas to be safe about wildlife safety through the weekend as wildfires rip through several counties in the state.

    "TEXANS – please remain weather-aware & practice wildfire safety today & through the weekend," he wrote on his personal Twitter feed.

    "Texas has elevated our response & increased resources to address wildfire activity. Thank you to our firefighters & emergency response personnel who are working around the clock."

  • Josie Rhodes Cook

    'Extreme fire behavior'

    Texas A&M Forest Service shared a terrifying video on Twitter of "extreme fire behavior" captured on film as the Service battled a total of ten different fires in the state.

    "Yesterday, Texas A&M Forest Service responded to 10 wildfires that burned 52,708 acres across the state," the Incident Information – Texas A&M Forest Service account wrote.

    "Strong winds, critically dry grasses contributed to extreme fire behavior and rapid spread."

  • Josie Rhodes Cook

    'It's heartbreaking'

    A Baptist church in Ranger, Texas, was destroyed on Thursday when flames ripped through the 103-year-old building.

    The police department there and other historic buildings were also burned, according to Dallas TV station WFAA.

    Roy Rodgers, a deacon at Second Baptist Church, revealed the third floor and roof collapsed at the building.

    The building also had extensive smoke and water damage.

    "It’s heartbreaking," said Rodgers, who has been a member of the church since 1969.

    "A lot of people are taking it pretty hard because a lot of people have ties to the church."

  • Josie Rhodes Cook

    'We had everything ready'

    Ranger Fire Department Chief Darrell Fox told the Associated Press when it came to preparing for possible wildfires in Eastland County, "We had everything ready throughout the county."

    "But when we have the winds like there was … and the humidity down to nothing, this is what you’re going to get."

  • Josie Rhodes Cook

    Oklahoma and Kansas may be at risk

    The Texas A&M Forest Service warned that the “rare, high impact wildfire phenomenon” could also impact parts of Oklahoma and Kansas, according to the Associated Press.

    As of Friday morning, the fires had burned about 62.5 square miles, the forest service told AP.

  • Josie Rhodes Cook

    Chico Lane fire mostly contained

    "Update: the #ChicoLaneFire in Reagan County is an estimated 8,000 acres and 95% contained," the Incident Information – Texas A&M Forest Service Twitter account reported around 1.30pm on Friday.

    That fire is now controlled more than it had been earlier the same day, when it was reported as being 80 percent contained.

  • Josie Rhodes Cook

    Fires raged on Friday morning

    According to ABC8, as of 5.15am on March 18, the active wildfires were located in:

    • Eastland County – estimated 39,883 acres, 2 percent contained
    • Reagan County – estimated 8,000 acres, 80 percent contained
    • Sterling County – estimated 3,878 acres, 75 percent contained
    • Randall County – 166 acres, 90 percent contained
    • Runnels County – estimated 7,500 acres, 80 percent contained
    • Maverick County – estimated 3,500 acres, 95 percent contained

    'It hurts the whole community'

    "I've been fire chief here 40 years and when you have something like this… it hurts. It hurts the whole community," Ranger Fire Department Chief Darrell Fox told CBS DFW News of the wildfires in Texas.

    "You know, this church had been here for 100 years," he said of a church that was seemingly destroyed in the blaze in a post the church shared on Facebook.

    "[And] this right here was my first fire station when I first went to work for the City of Ranger. So you know, a lot of it is sentimental."

    Reinforcements brought in

    "Update: the #EastlandComplex in Eastland County is an estimated 45,383 acres and 4% contained," the Texas A&M Forest Service tweeted at 11am on March 18.

    "Aviation resources including 3 large air tankers, helicopters, and 3 fireboss single-engine air tankers will be working on the fire today to help reinforce areas of concern."

    Limited containment in Eastland

    Approximately 38,000 acres were consumed in the blaze of wildfires in Texas as of the evening of March 17 with zero percent contained, according to Texas A&M Forest Service.

    That number has since increased to 45,383 in Eastland County, with just 4 percent contained.

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