‘High alert’ in Killeen as the possibility of wildfires creeping into residential areas remains
KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) - Day-by-day the threat of a wildfire creeping into a residential area is increasing, especially as many areas continue to see little-to-no rain.
Many fire departments are putting in more hours than they have in the past and for the most-part Central Texas has been spared from any major damage.
But even with the work many fire departments are putting in, there are still concerns from residents reeling from some close calls.
In front of the Killeen city council, Fred Garvin raised concerns about a firefighter who he thought did not take his suggestions seriously.
“He told me they couldn’t go into the field, because this $850,000 truck might get stuck,” Garvin told the council.
In front of the same crowd, Killeen’s fire chief explained why that could not have happened.
“It is a 50,000-pound vehicle that manufacturer specifications do not allow it to go off road,” said James Kubinski.
The matter was in reference to a mid-July wildfire that burned 30 acres off W.S. Young. In that fire response smaller boosters trucks came in handy.
But the fire still came dangerously close to many homes. And these dangers increase as these dry conditions continue, said Kubinski.
“We are on high alert. We have to be realistic in the fact that it’s not if we see another larger wildland fire in the city, it’s when,” said Kubinski. “We are going to see at least one or two more.”
And readying for whatever could come up, the department has been rotating staff in certain ways to make sure they are not overworked.
In in some cases bringing in off-duty staffers as relief for much larger, county-wide fires, like the Dog Ridge Fire.
“We are combat ready and we have been deployed,” said Kubinski. “And we’re just waiting for the next incident to find out where we have to go and where we’re going to send the troops.”
The most help people can give themselves right now is to make sure vegetation is not growing too high, so any fires will not spread quickly. That means keeping grasses cut to somewhere around three-inches.
“We never want to go with hope. Hope is never a good strategy,” said Kubisnki, explaining how it may take some physical effort to provide safety around homes.
Keeping the grass and weeds low was part of the same precautions Garvin took to make sure his home was safe.
“It could have been more devastating than it actually was,” said Garvin. “It’s going to take many years for that area to recover.”
But as some start to recover, there is a lot more that is still possibly threatened.
“Be vigilant, be aware. Don’t hesitate to call if you see anything burning,” said Kubinski.
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