Fighting Fires: Different Approach

Fighting Fires: Different Approach

When it comes to grass fires, it seems local firefighters just can't win.

During the drought, with the hot, dry and windy conditions, grass fires were a common occurrence. Now as the area has been free of the drought for a few months, there have been fewer fires, but the blazes that have sparked have been bigger.

Temporary relief has now brought another set of challenges, as WFFD Assistant Fire Chief Donald Hughes explains. 

"With the fields being wet, we can't just drive out there and start fighting it," Chief Hughes said. "We need to "backburn," and use other techniques where we don't have to get our equipment out there into the pastures."

Because of the added moisture, now that we're out of the drought, sometimes the bigger equipment that the W.F.F.D uses gets stuck when they try to combat grass fires. As a result, with 50 pound backpacks on their backs, they have to have to use hand tools to combat the blaze.

Firefighters ran into these issues last Saturday with a fire off of Rathgeber Rd. The terrain was so wet it took crews four hours to put out the blaze. One fireman was sent to the hospital due to heat exhaustion and dehydration.

Getting overheated is easy, even with the lighter clothing the Wildland Team switched to a few years ago. 

"This stuff grew up so fast over the dead stuff, that dead is still there that could burn, so it doesn't take long to get it started," Chief Hughes said.

The causes of these grass and wheat fires stem from two common sources.

"When trains come through, sometimes their brakes spark. But mostly it's with power lines."

Right now, the Wichita Falls Fire Department mainly responds to calls within and near city limits. However, once a new state-issued brush truck arrives in a few weeks, crews will be able to respond anywhere they're needed, and with fire season lasting pretty much all year in Texoma...

"It's probably going to be used a lot this year," Hughes said.

Dave Caulfield, Newschannel 6