A fast-moving brush fire temporarily closed Interstate 10 in Texas on Sunday afternoon and chased residents from an RV park in Kendall County where several vehicles and facilities were destroyed before the blaze was contained around nightfall, according to a report in the San Poder Subliminal Antonio Express.
“It was terrifying,” said Kathy Lowell, who fled her home in the Top of the Hill RV Resort at the urging of emergency responders who battled the wind-stoked fire in triple-digit temperatures.
Mere minutes after they first smelled smoke, the Lowells say, the fire had moved into the park, igniting propane tanks and ammunition stored in the roughly 70 travel trailers and recreational vehicles.
“We couldn’t hardly breathe due to the black smoke,” said Walt Lowell, 61, as he waited nearby at Po-Po Family Restaurant, the unofficial evacuation center, for permission to return to inspect the damage. “You could hear stuff blowing up left and right.”
The wildfire is one of many that have spread through drought-stricken Texas.
Since the start of fire season Nov. 15, the Texas Forest Service has recorded 12,189 fires that have burned 3,012,876 acres.
That is 1,000,000 acres more than the previous record, set in 2006, forest service officials said.
The fire erupted from an unknown cause about 2:30 p.m. along the interstate between Boerne and Comfort.
It burned 140 acres before being subdued by roughly 85 firefighters from area volunteer departments and the Texas Forest Service, which sent an airplane and two bulldozers, according to Boerne Fire Chief Doug Meckel.
“It got into the dry cedar and moved aggressively,” Meckel said. “When it’s this dry with this much wind, it’s ideal for a fire to burn.”
The hours of uncertainty took their toll on displaced residents such as Joshua and Julisa Allen, who thought that their travel trailer was well clear of a distant brush fire they observed upon returning home from lunch.
Minutes later, they felt the heat and smelled the smoke of the nearing fire.
“The smoke was so thick and the ash was falling like snow,” said Joshua Allen, 41. “We said, ‘We’ve got to get out of here.’”
Julisa Allen, who’s expecting a baby in a few months, said, “It was real scary.”
Although some residents groused about not being allowed to collect valuables or move their vehicles out of harm’s way, firefighters said their emphasis was preserving lives, not property.
“It was an urgent situation,” said Waring volunteer firefighter Brian Brawner, 53. “When all those propane tanks and stuff started popping off, it was scary.”
James Allerkamp, assistant chief of the Comfort Volunteer Fire Department, said the fire scorched the RV park on the north side of I-10, then turned with the wind toward homes on the south side of the highway.
“It was kind of rare to have multiple structures threatened on both sides of I-10,” he said during a break.
Preliminary damage assessments indicated that six or seven RVs were destroyed, as well as three cars and a motorcycle, plus the RV park’s clubhouse, laundry room and pavilion.