Local Firefighters Help Battle Panhandle Wildfires

Fire 5
Firefighters fighting wildfire. | Image from Pantex Plant

Several local teams of firefighters spent Christmas Day battling wildfires in the state’s Panhandle area. Southlake, Haltom City, and Roanoke all sent firefighters to help in that region on Wednesday.

This has been their second deployment in two weeks to help extinguish the wildfires there.

“The fire was 23,810 acres, and it stretched 23 miles long,” said Lt. Sterling Gilliland of Haltom City Fire Department. He recently returned home from helping fight fires in Carson County, northeast of Abilene.

Many Haltom City firefighters helped in evacuation efforts earlier this month.

“Time was very limited when we arrived, striking leaders came up with a real good tactical plan for evacuating. We divided the city into segments and at that point we split up and did the most good for the most people,” said Gilliland.

Haltom City, Roanoke, Southlake, Abilene, Stephenville, and Wichita Falls have all dispatched crews to Canadian, Texas, the northeastern part of the Panhandle, where wildfires are more likely to spread because of ripe conditions.

“We’re in a very high elevated fire risk today,” said Vann Wakefield of the Southlake Fire Department.

“It’s a red flag warning and beyond. It’s super, super dry, super, super windy out here. It could get pretty western out here today. It can make the fires travel faster than we can corral it and fight it. A lot of times, what we do is called chasing the head of the fire and these kinds of conditions with the wind, we can’t do that. We can’t move as fast as it can move.”

Additionally, Texas A&M Forest Service has sent six teams of 82 firefighters and 25 fire engines from different departments around the state. The teams will be working through the Christmas weekend and giving up time with their families to fight the wildfires.

The North Texas teams plan to remain in the Panhandle region through Monday but will stay longer if needed.

“It’s not different whether we’re in Tarrant County or up in the Panhandle. It’s our passion. That’s what we like to do,” said Gilliland. “To help citizens no matter where we’re at in the state of Texas.”

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