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Oasis wildfire in Texas hill country under control Special

By Lynn Herrmann     May 5, 2011 in Environment
Junction - The Oasis wildfire in the Texas hill country, scorching more than 10,000 acres, has finally reached 90 percent containment, leaving in its wake exhausted firefighters, parched earth, a few remaining hot spots, and a revived can-do community spirit.
Southwest of Junction, near the pristine waters of the South Llano River, Mother Nature once again has revealed her ability to leave behind massive destruction, creating a moonscape scene and a restoration of faith in humanity.
Likely the cause of an earlier storm’s lightning strike on a cedar tree, the wildfire started when heat, wind and relative humidity combined to spark a smoldering tree, and nine days later left in its path moonscapes, 10 destroyed structures, and a rejuvenated community spirit that helped endure another hill country hardship, indicative of the mindset and lifestyle prevalent throughout the region since it was first settled.
Kevin Dzekeiorius  a member of Colorado s Durango Fire and Rescue crew  and Kimble County Sheriff Hi...
Kevin Dzekeiorius, a member of Colorado's Durango Fire and Rescue crew, and Kimble County Sheriff Hilario Cantu discuss the Oasis wildfire.
Kimble County Sheriff Hilario Cantu is one of the cogs in that community spirit, a total team player who spent time on Thursday with Digital Journal to provide an inside look at one of the historical events in the hill country, an event helping prove that, once again, a sense of teamwork, sans the egos, can overcome great obstacles.
“Some of that is rough country back there and we won’t be able to access it,” Cantu said. Yet off we went into the rugged hill country, looking at a surreal landscape that, due to exceptional drought conditions, previously had begged for rain and now screams for it.
“The firefighters found a location where a cedar tree had split down the middle, and that’s typical of a lightning strike. We had a storm come through about a week before the fire started, and the cedar sat smoldering for a long period. That made for a really good, bad condition, and off it went,” Cantu said.
Dan Dosch  a member of Colorado s Durango Fire and Rescue  and part of the federal firefightters ass...
Dan Dosch, a member of Colorado's Durango Fire and Rescue, and part of the federal firefightters assigned to Texas wildfires, handles a hot spot.
Long gone is the media circus, a firestorm in its own right, clamoring for its next great event. Behind, firefighting crews continue searching for hot spots, doing what they are trained to do. “Of course the state came out and gave us a hand with communications and logistics, and the federal firefighters are amazing. They’re still out here patrolling the fires,” Cantu said, looking out over a scorched earth, thrilled to see signs of new growth emerging from the ashes. As if on cue, a call came in over Sheriff Cantu’s radio that a hot spot had been found.
With a federal firefighting crew in our sights, the Sheriff flagged them down, letting them know its location, less than a mile down the road. And off we went again.
Eloy Martinez  member of the Durango Fire and Rescue firefighting crew  battling a hotspot.
Eloy Martinez, member of the Durango Fire and Rescue firefighting crew, battling a hotspot.
A crew from Colorado’s Durango Fire and Rescue, cooperators with the federal government, responded to the call. Kevin Dzekeiorius, Eloy Martinez, and Dan Dosch have been in Texas for almost three weeks, fighting the state’s fires that have now torched over 2 million acres since first starting last November.
“We’ve been in Texas for 18 days now, we were on two days of R&R, now we’re back for 14 more days on the fires," Dzekeiorius said. "We’ve been on this one since it started last Tuesday."
Fortunately, this fire caused no human fatalities, Cantu noted. “We had four local firefighter injuries in the first couple of days, but they were minor, were treated and released from the local hospital.”
Important as well for the rural ranching community, there was no lost livestock, and Cantu noted: “The people here are amazing. Everyone pitched in, offering their vehicles and stock trailers. A lot of livestock was relocated, but there were no losses.”
Structure loss at the Oasis wildfire in the Texas hill country.
Structure loss at the Oasis wildfire in the Texas hill country.
As weathermen continue missing on their forecasts, and a predicted low pressure system fails to appear, Cantu counts his, and the community’s blessings. “Being a smaller community, fairly remote from the bigger cities, our resources are fairly limited. I don’t know if we just got lucky on this, but we had a ton of resources come in to help, on the local, state, and federal level. We were fortunate,” Cantu said.
On an ending note, he added: “It made me feel good to see how everyone pulled together, I was proud to see how they got the job done.”
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