Friday, May 6, 2011

Aerial pics of north Texas wildfire damage

Possum Kingdom is a medium-size lake in Texas that meanders across or through three different counties and covers an approximate 18,000 acres with over 300 miles of shoreline. Roughly three-million visitors a year journey to Possum Kingdom for everything ranging from boating to holidays to fishing, diving and hunting.

A popular spot on the lake is a break in between cliffs known as Hell's Gate, shown in the picture to the right.

This past April, Possum Kingdom and the surrounding area looked more like Hell on earth due to the raging wildfires and twenty to forty knot winds that kept them whipped up--even allowing them to jump rivers and smaller areas on the lake itself.

Fueling the out-of-control fires was the fact that we were suffering one of our worst droughts in recent memory. Dry tinder, high winds and a semi-rural area. No one is quite sure where the spark came from, but everyone knows what the result was.

I took the Cessna up yesterday and flew west towards Possum Kingdom to survey the damage. I fly this route frequently in my trips back to Lubbock where my family continues to reside.

The damage I saw was hard to believe. But even more amazing is how this wildfire acted so much like a tornado in its random path of destruction. In some areas, it jumped rivers and small ponds and continue burning on the other side.

In other areas, it stopped inexplicably at roads or at people's property lines.

We lost a firefighter during this disaster as nearly 1,000 people mourned Eastland firefighter Gregory Mack Simmons at a funeral service at the Leon River Cowboy Church in Olden, about 100 miles west of Fort Worth.

Below, you can see where this portion of the lake area is surrounded by water on three sides, so the fire took the one path it could. Yet, look at the firebreak line where it stopped at various property lines.

This is on the southwest side of the lake.

The picture below is of Sportsmans World, a private resort. You can see their runway (they have their own private airfield) and you can see where some hangars are damaged and others are untouched.

The next two pictures are of large land masses where the fire only had one way in and no way out. Again, some of the firefighters had only the water (lake) at their backs, and still made their stand. The result was a lot of saved property.

A hilltop and observation point on the west side of Possum Kingdom.

Lot of rebuilding to do as a number of folks lost everything. We'll bounce back--we always do.

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