Quick action helps quell wildfire

Local firefighters responded to a wildfire near the intersection of E. County Road 34 and N. County Road 37 Thursday afternoon after a controlled burn being conducted by a number of ranchers got out of control.According to Howard County Volunteer Fire Department Chief Tommy Sullivan, the ranchers were attempting to burn off between 200 and 250 acres in the area.“All of that acreage is CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) land. They were conducting a controlled burn and had all of their fire lines cut,” Sullivan said. “However, there was one area where the fire got into a ditch and was able to get into some heavy brush that was nearby.”Sullivan said once the fire got away from the ranchers it looked like a nearby home might be threatened by the blaze.“They were smart and called the fire in immediately,” Sullivan said. “That good sense was vital to getting the fire under control before it really spread. There was a home nearby on E. County Road 34 and the fire was moving in that general direction. However, we were able to get on the scene quickly and the closest it got was about a half-mile out. No other structures were threatened by the fire.”Sullivan said the unintended portion of the fire consumed only two acres of brush land and no injuries were reported as a result of the fire.“The HCVFD had four vehicles on the scene and the Big Spring Fire Department had one vehicle, so we were able to shut it down pretty quick,” he said.Sullivan said he and his firefighters also recently responded to a structure fire near the intersection of Hilltop Road and FM 1501.“There was an electrical short in the ceiling of the home,” Sullivan said. “However, the occupants were very lucky. They smelled smoke and contacted the fire department quickly. Also, thanks to the extreme cold we had that night the fire didn't move as quickly as it normally would have.”Sullivan said firefighters were able to save the home, which suffered only minimal damage from the fire. No injuries were reported as a result of the incident.According to Sullivan, wildfire hazards in Howard County are quickly going from moderate to extreme.“We still have some moisture in the ground, so that helps us out a lot,” Sullivan said. “However, we're getting closer and closer to extreme conditions with each passing day. That, coupled with the high winds we can expect toward the end of this month and in March, is going to make for a very busy season.”Sullivan said he plans to meet with Howard County commissioners soon to discuss enacting a burn ban.“I expect to meet with them toward the end of the month to request they enact a burn ban if the conditions continue the way they are going,” he said.