July 19, 2018

Smith-West Fire Claims 680 Acres

By Kellie Bucy 

Last week, Blanco County First Responders along with numerous Hill Country agencies worked to contain a vegetation fire that started Tuesday, July 17, 2018 and scorched an estimated 680 acres of ranch land on Smith-West Ranch Road in Round Mountain.  

Blanco County Emergency Management reported last Tuesday at 5:20 p.m. multiple agencies responded to heavy fire conditions that threatened a structure. The fire jumped Ranch Road 962 and began moving into Llano County.  

Crews closed Ranch Road 962 from HWY 281 to HWY 71 due to fire activity on both sides of the highway. Ranch Road 962 and the surrounding area remained closed for several days as responders tried to get ahead of the fire to stop its spread.  

Johnson City Volunteer Fire Chief Roy Burdett reported last Wednesday afternoon that the night before they had reached 25 percent containment on the 660 acre fire but as the fire grew, containment decreased into Wednesday. 

Johnson City Volunteer Fire Chief Roy Burdett reported that Tuesday they had reached 25 percent containment on the 660 acre fire but as the fire grew, containment decreased into Wednesday.   

“The fire was going faster than we could drive,” said Burdett.  

He described the flames as 100 to 200 feet above the large oak trees that were being engulfed in the fire.  

Emergency crews remained on scene through Saturday working to fully contain the fire. Blanco County’s Chief Deputy, Neal Leonard reported the danger was due to embers and ash traveling by wind and starting smaller fires.  

Five to ten acre fires with flames reaching 20 to 30 feet were reported towards HWY 71 as the fire spread West and into Llano County Wednesday.  

By Friday, the fire was reported to be 90 percent contained but continued to be managed and monitored by emergency crews. The Texas A&M Forestry Service completed their assignment at the Smith-West fire but stayed in the area to respond if needed. Local crews remained on scene through Saturday.  

After four days on scene, Blanco County Emergency Management reported the fire was 100 percent contained and its estimated size was 680 acres. Blanco County emergency crews turned the site back over to landowners at 2 p.m. Saturday, July 21, 2018.  

No injuries or structure damage were reported. Pedernales Electric Cooperative and Lower Colorado River Authority confirmed that none of their utilities and infrastructure were damaged.  

With drought conditions expected to continue and fires already claiming hundreds of acres of ranch land, Chief Burdett compared this year’s fire season to the year 2011 which devastated over a million acres of Texas land.  

“There’s a pretty bad fire danger, everyone needs to be extra cautious,” said Chief Burdett.  

Blanco County is currently under a 90 day burn ban enacted on July 5, 2018.