Camp Barkeley fire evacuations lifted in Buffalo Gap

Submitted by KTXS viewer

ABILENE, Texas - A significant grass fire west of FM 1235 near Camp Barkeley crossed containment lines late Monday afternoon, causing authorities to express concern and warn people to stay away from the area.

At nearly 9 p.m., A Texas A&M Forest Service spokesman told KTXS news reporter Jennifer Kendall that the fire was about half way contained. More than 1600 acres were affected. Evacuations in north and west parts of Buffalo Gap have been lifted. Residents are still being told to be prepared to evacuate again, if necessary.

Earlier on Monday, Phillip Truitt of Texas A&M Forest Service said a heavy air tanker had made a drop as part of an effort to diminish what has been labeled the "Camp Barkeley fire."

Truitt said crews were working to protect structures in the fire's path and that evacuations were being done for part of Buffalo Gap as a precautionary measure.

In a Twitter message, Truitt said, "Buffalo Gap evacuation is just the northwest corner currently."

Authorities identified the blaze as the "Camp Barkeley fire" because a portion of the burned land was part of the former U.S. Army training installation used during World War II .

Meanwhile, about 15 to 20 homes on Country Road 330 (Apache Junction) were evacuated as firefighters continued to battle the 1,500-acre blaze, Sheriff Ricky Bishop said.

The blaze started Sunday and was believed to be about 60 percent contained before the fire broke containment

As high winds continued Monday, fire and Texas A&M Forest Service Personnel are "working to build additional fire breaks," Taylor County Sheriff's Department spokesman John Cummins said.

Residents and the media will be notified "if additional evacuations become necessary," Cummins said.

After being evacuated Sunday, Cummins said, "Some residents have been unable to return to their homes."

Roads were closed Sunday between Buffalo Gap and View. As of late Sunday, homes along Country Road 330 had been evacuated. On Monday morning, bulldozers worked their way up a hill near CR 330.

Taylor County Sheriff Ricky Bishop, who serves also as View VFD's fire chief, said firefighters are especially concerned about Monday when the fire is still expected to be burning and fire danger remains high.

Crews from Taylor County and the Texas A&M Forest Service worked through the night to make fire breaks.

Bishop said he was also thankful for the community's help and donations and stressed that the View VFD would continue to need that support after the fire is extinguished. Some fire engines and other vehicles were damaged navigating the mountainous terrain, Bishop said.

At 8:45 p.m. Sunday, fire leaders met to discuss how to use bulldozers to keep Taylor County grass fire from moving further west. One problem firefighters are facing is the hilly terrain and how to get the bulldozers up into it.

Poor visibility was reported Sunday on Buffalo Gap Road due to smoke.

Firefighters responded to the blaze around 3 p.m. Sunday. Fire departments from Abilene, Merkel, Tye, Dyess Air Force Base, View, Buffalo Gap, Jim Ned and ECCA have been fighting the grass fire.

Workers from TxDOT, the Taylor County Sheriff's Office and the Texas Department of Public Safety have been helping block off roads.

KTXS will continue to update this story as more information becomes available.