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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Texas Wildfires Get Dangerously Close to Fort Griffin

By Mitch Baird, Site Manager

A wildfire broke out at Fort Griffin’s neighboring ranch, approximately one mile south of the site, on Tuesday, July 19. With winds shifting back and forth, there was a very good possibility that the wildfire might make it to Fort Griffin. Thanks to proper training and funding, the staff quickly switched from daily routines to emergency management. Firefighting equipment was readied, a hose was attached to the quick fill fire outlet, which was recently installed during the winter campground restoration project, and handheld radios were tuned to the fire department channels while vehicle radios remained on the THC channel. And then we waited.

As we listened to the firefighters, it gave me time to think about the past year’s training. Just last month, during our monthly safety meeting, we covered structure fires and fire extinguishers. This past winter we had a controlled burn, which gave the staff hands-on training with the firefighting equipment and experience with an actual fire. 

I reminded the staff that they were not to put themselves in danger if the fire jumped the line and came onto THC property. Their safety was far more important than anything else. Luckily, the fire turned east and moved away from Fort Griffin. Air support in the form of helicopters soon arrived, drawing water from local tanks and the Clear Forks of the Brazos River, dropping it on hot spots.

By nightfall the wildfire was 100 percent contained, with 1,700 acres burnt. We were thankful that we once again dodged the wildfire bullet. But thanks to proper training and funding, we stand ready in case we are not so lucky next time.

Fort Griffin State Historic Site is located 15 miles north of Albany on U.S. Hwy 283, in the Texas Forts Trail Region.

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