by Victor Lopez
JEFF DAVIS COUNTY--The largest grass fire in Texas history is one for the record books.
You can imagine folks in Jeff Davis County are breathing a huge sigh of relief. But fire officials warn, unless there is some significant rain in the future, the celebration could be short-lived.
According to Bart Medley, Deputy Incident Commander and Asst. Fire Chief for Fort Davis volunteers, "(As of Tuesday) We are at 100% containment. The fire has burned, right at 314,444 acres. Just to give somebody some perspective, that's approximately 500 square miles."
As if they needed any reminder, everywhere you turn in Fort Davis and Jeff Davis County is the grim reality of what residents lived through for almost the last month. It's a day they've been waiting anxiously to see.
"At this point, we're going to continue to patrol. We're going to continue to keep an eye on this fire. But, unless something drastically changes, we're there. We knew it was coming. It couldn't get here, quite fast enough for us. Now, it's time for a nap, quite frankly," Medley said.
But, county officials warn, not to get too complacent. They're not totally out of the woods yet.
"This is just the start of our fire season. But, the weather people say we're not likely to be in to any serious moisture for another, potentially, six more weeks or longer. That means six more weeks of high danger and it's going to take a while for the rains to soak in and do any good for us, if they come," County Commissioner Larry Francell, said.
With over 314,000 acres burned, the Rock House Fire has the distinction to be the largest grass fire in Texas history, as far as acreage. Medley says, that's an honor they can do without. And compared to some, Jeff Davis County was lucky.
"Some of our neighbors to the north and some of our neighbors in the deep south, have got a lot bigger problems than we do," he explained.
It took officials 25 days to do it, but the Rock House Fire is 100% contained. A thank you sign, in front of the The Hotel Limpia says it all. City residents and county officials can't say enough about the people that helped get them where they are today.
According to Francell, "You just have to say a blanket thank you to every one, because if you start trying to do it individually, you're certainly going to miss someone."
Of the almost 400 fire personnel that showed up from all across the nation, only a handful remain, including local departments.
One-fourth of Jeff Davis County went up in smoke in just 25 days. Officials are asking everyone to be extra careful to make sure the other three-fourths doesn't follow suit.
"This is not the last fire in Jeff Davis County. We still have a burn ban. We still have a ton of fuel and it's still a very dangerous situation until it rains," Francell said.
"If you see smoke, give us a call and let us get it while it's small," Medley added.