Smoke wall during the Bastrop fire in September of 2011. (This photo is not mine)
Back a few years ago, I got excited about springtime coming. For the second year in a row, I can honestly say that I am dreading it. As most people in America know, 2011 wasn’t a kind year to Texas in regard to rainfall and moisture. We experienced the worst drought in history for this state and many old timers were comparing conditions to that of the dust bowl days. I’m sad to report that meteorologists are calling for a carbon copy of last year for us.
Used to I waited in anticipation for the warmer weather to come, the longer days, and most of all, the storm season that this region usually saw. Last year I think we got maybe three good storms for the entire year, and if I remember correctly, one of those came in October of all months!
For those of you who are not familiar with the way Texas fire departments work, many are run by volunteers. In fact, men and women whose day jobs are not firefighting control around 75% of departments. First responders hold a special spot in my heart. My father was a Lieutenant with Woodrow Fire Department for over twenty years. He is now a paramedic. I see what kind of stress jobs like that do to a person, yet they still do it for one main reason – to help people.
97% of the state of Texas was declared in a drought and burn bans were issued everywhere. About 27,000 fires broke out, incinerating almost 4 million acres of land. The fire season started up in west Texas and progressed across most of the state. Most know about the infamous Bastrop County fire that forced major evacuations of many towns in that area. This fire is referred to as the most catastrophic fire in Texas history.
Fire departments all across the state were worn thin. Men and women dedicated hundreds of hours to help to try to control these burns, and keep in mind, most were volunteers, not even pulling in a paycheck for their time spent out there on the front lines. Volunteer fire fighting funds were also cut drastically in 2011, leaving people in charge of paying for their own gear, which is very expensive. My thanks goes out to the men and women who worked hard to keep the citizens of Texas safe. Long hours, dangerous situations, and times when it seemed impossible to put the huge walls of flames out are just a few of the things these dedicated people endured during the wildfire season. I can’t imagine what it feels like to have someone come to your home and declare a mandatory evacuation. How would a person even decide what to take with them? It would be horrible to think that the next time you came home that it could very well be burned to the ground.
I am currently in the process of writing a sequel to my novel Through Smoke that is based on the 2011 wildfire season here in Texas. I am about halfway through with the manuscript and am really hoping that I can do the situation justice. I’ve thought about a possible goal as to when I plan on having it published, but who am I kidding? I rarely get it done in the time I say! Right now it’s just very unpredictable with my school schedule, but I started writing this back in late November and am already half way done, so if I can keep the pace up the release date could possibly be soon!
I will finish this blog entry with me saying a huge THANK YOU to everyone who dedicated their time during the Texas wildfire season of 2011. With the way the weather patterns are looking for the upcoming months, it appears that we are in for some more of it for 2012. We’ll just have to keep praying for that rain and continue to offer support where we can.
God bless all of you first responders out there!