Midland Fire Dept., Residents Look Back on One Year Anniversary of Hickman Fire

By Geena Martinez
NewsWest 9

MIDLAND COUNTY - It's hard to believe that one year ago Monday, a destructive wildfire ripped through Midland County taking down nearly everything in its path.

Nearly 18,000 acres burned, more than 40 homes and buildings destroyed and hundreds evacuated in Midland County.

That was the scene one year ago on April 9th, 2011.

"It's just a horrible feeling to be at the mercy of an event like that," David Hickman, Asst. Fire Marshal for the Midland Fire Dept., said.

Two separate fires caused by a cigarette butt and sparks from metal falling off a truck merged into what became known as the Hickman fire.

Hickman was the staging officer that day.

In a spur of the moment decision, the fire was named after him.

"Oh it's horrible, you know anytime we have a fire it's a tragedy but this fire was so dynamic and moved so fast," Hickman said.

Fire crews from all over the Basin tried to stop the blaze.

Families fled their homes, not knowing if it would be there when they got back.

Karen Howell was one of them.

"All the cars burned, everything burned and everything me and my son and my aunt owned burned up," Howell said.

Howell's travel trailer and all her belongings stored in a backyard shed went up in flames.

"My baby, all his first clothes, pictures," she said. "Everything in a house, that I would have in a house, that would fit there was back there. When it came around to winter, we didn't have no clothes."

Howell didn't have insurance. She was forced to start over with just a thousand dollars to her name.

The fire barely missed her mom's house but it was still damaged.

One year later, they're still making repairs.

"We're still repainting, re-sheet rocking, re-doing everything in this house," Howell said. "We're still replacing the smoke damage."

NewsWest 9 spoke with other residents who didn't want to go on camera, but one said she stayed with family for five months before she could move back.

Another resident lost a mobile home that had just been remodeled.

Not only did it change the lives of residents but it also changed the way the fire department is preparing for fire season this year.

"It just kind of opened our eyes about some things, about pre-manning equipment so we can get things in an instant, a lot quicker," Hickman said. "We do more pre-planning and also we get the word out to the public to modify their behaviors."

They also make sure back up is ready on high fire danger days.

Hickman is hoping this fire will serve as a reminder of just how unpredictable Mother Nature can be.

"People need to be aware of the weather conditions for any particular day and not do behaviors that might cause a fire," Hickman said.