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Area fire departments join battle against wildfires
The Little Elm Fire Department is just one of several departments battling large wildfires across Texas, which include the Bastrop County Complex fire in Bastrop County, the Bear Creek fire in Cass County and the Riley Road fire in Grimes, Montgomery and Waller Counties.
Lewisville, Flower Mound, Denton, Coppell, Frisco, Plano, Prosper, Carrollton and Rowlett are a few of the North Texas fire departments that have sent firefighters to battle the wildfires. Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System (TIFMAS) State Coordinator and Little Elm Fire Chief Joe Florentino has sent a Little Elm brush truck with a chief officer and two firefighters to the Bastrop County Complex fire in Bastrop County.
As of Thursday, the Bastrop fire has burned 34,068 acres and only 30 percent is contained. According to the Texas Forest Service, most of the forward progress of the fire has stopped, but a significant amount of intense burning in the interior continues.
"I think the Possum Kingdom fire in April up to that point was the worst," Florentino said. "This [Bastrop] is so close to a large population. It's probably the worst fire in the history of Texas in Bastrop."
Florentino said the fire burned 800 homes in a 48-hour time period. Over 1,300 homes have been confirmed as destroyed and two civilians were found dead Tuesday as search crews went through charred subdivisions of the Central Texas fires.
Florentino said that the terrain is more of a forest-type setting with dense trees and underbrush that grows between. The severe drought, low humidity and high winds contributed to the fire's strength.
"It's a different terrain than what we have here," Florentino said.
To battle the fire, firefighters must rely heavily upon air drops. Texas Forest Service hand crews are concentrating on creating fire breaks through the area.
Florentino said the Bastrop Fire is in the "mop-up" stage, where there is still a fire but focusing on cleaning up the hot spots such as trimming limbs off of burning trees. The wind has died down, which has helped firefighters battling the Bastrop blaze.
"I know they're in a much better shape than a couple of days ago," Florentino said.
Florentino has sent units to all three large fires, and plans to continue to send units. He has 300 firefighters across the state working on wildfires.
In Cass County, the Bear Creek fire has burned 25,000 acres and the containment is unknown. It is burning actively in heavy timber and numerous houses are threatened. Eight homes have been destroyed. TIFMAS engines are assisting aviation sources in battling the fire.
The Riley Road fire, in Grimes, Montgomery and Waller counties, 11,000 acres have burned with 60 percent contained. West of Mongolia, 75 homes have been destroyed.
Florentino's concerns for the wildfires are the low humidity, 10-15 miles per hour winds and the lack of rain.
"There's no rain, and that's the biggest thing. We've got to have more rain," Florentino said.