FORT HOOD, Texas — Less than 24 hours after a quarter inch of rainfall gave Fort Hood firefighting efforts on northern ranges a respite Monday evening, another wildfire cropped up at the Blackwell ranges Tuesday afternoon sending the post’s firefighters back into action.
Following Monday’s rainfall, post officials announced wildfires in the northern training area to be 100 percent contained Tuesday. Monday night, the post’s Directorate of Emergency Services cleared all firefighting assets from the area, while smaller blazes to the south remained confined to the post’s permanent dud area.
The respite for Fort Hood firefighters was a welcomed relief, according to Fort Hood Fire Chief Sergio Campos.
“The fact that we were able to pull back resources and relatively return to normal operations is a blessing,” he said Tuesday. “We all need time to reset mentally and physically, so we are ready for the next fight.”
That next fight came later the same day.
“The current weather conditions continue to pose a severe fire threat not only on the installation, but off the installation, as well,” Campos said when asked about his concerns looking ahead. “Therefore, I am concerned about the threat of fire … period. As I am sure any fire chief would tell you, the main concern is an urban wildland interface incident, such as the fires experienced in Coryell County and other parts of Texas, which threatened residents.”
Though smoke from Tuesday’s Blackwell Range blaze could be seen from miles away, post officials noted in a release that evening that no personnel or structures were in imminent danger.
Fort Hood firefighting efforts Wednesday included attacking the Blackwell Range fire by air with UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters making Bambi Bucket water drops, bulldozers supporting the effort to contain the fire and ground crews attack hot spots. The post also received assistance from the Killeen Fire Department under its mutual aid agreement.
Before rainfall assisted in the containment efforts Monday, military aviators made 120 Bambi Bucket water drops that day. Campos lauded the teamwork of tenant units and organizations at the Great Place.
“The amount of work that has been provided has been astonishing,” the fire chief said in praise of the effort. “Personnel fighting the fight at the actual incident have worked long hours in historical hot weather conditions.”
He added that lower temperatures and higher humidity has also “been a blessing” for his firefighters.
Fort Hood Garrison Commander Col. Hank Perry also commended the firefighting efforts, and the teamwork of Fort Hood tenant units and organizations.
“Since fires were first spotted July 17, this has been an amazing team effort,” Perry said, noting assistance from the 1st Cavalry Division, Division West, 36th Engineer Brigade, the Royal Netherlands Air Force, and U.S. Army National Guard units training on the installation have been instrumental in battling the blazes in the range area. He said Fort Hood’s focus remains on training its troops, while ensuring safety and safeguards are in place to deal with the wildfire threat.
“It’s a readiness issue,” the garrison commander said. “You can’t stop the clock on units preparing to deploy.
“We face this challenge every summer,” he added. “It’s important to conduct deployment training while balancing the risk of fire that comes about because of dry conditions and low humidity.”
Firefighting crews and Directorate of Public Works personnel work throughout the year clearing brush and cutting firebreaks in the Fort Hood range area to mitigate the threat of wildfires.