I’ve been covering a lot of wildfires on the Southern Plains this year, in the absence of much severe weather to chase. This day was certainly one of the bigger fires I covered this year so far. I was returning from a storm chase in Oklahoma the previous day, and as is often the case after a storm system passes the area in the spring, the winds were howling across the plains. Combined with dry air, this was an explosive combination.
Arriving in Wichita Falls, Texas, there was already a large fire in progress on the north side, moving in to residential areas. That one was already well covered by media, and I knew there was another fire in progress to the SW near Iowa Park that I assumed was getting little, if any coverage, so I headed for it.
Thanks to some local law enforcement, I was able to get right up near the fire line, and was even shown a safe place to ride it out as it passed by. This turned out to produce great photographic opportunities of course.
Sadly, I watched and documented as people scrambled to shove as many possessions that they could in their vehicles and rush out of there in the very short time before the fire arrived. Winds were howling over 50 mph and the fire was coming fast and furious, through mostly mesquite trees and overgrown brush. Imagine trying to shove as much of your things as you can (or even to think of everything you want to save first) in 30 minutes and get out of there. I then watched in horror as those same folks’ homes burned to the ground in minutes!
While these are quite scary to watch, document, and even be in close proximity to, they do present incredible photographic opportunities to document the event, both in photo and video. I shot video for hours, was there from just after noon until well after dark, and I shot a couple hundred photographs as well.
The photograph above was of a local volunteer Fire Department truck that had mechanical troubles while fighting the fire, and had to be abandoned for their safety. You’ll actually see this truck working in some of the clips in the video below.
Here is a video of some of the best of the event. It’s a little long for a news type video, but I cut out as much as I thought possible and still tell the story. First you’ll see the fire coming in, then coming through the area I was at, and then some aftermath. Some of the area was just barren. It was like being on another planet! Finally, in the end we get to see some of the day’s heroes at work.
I’m planning to eventually get a fire gallery going on the main website, but right now I have a gallery from this day you can find here: