If there is one thing that is guaranteed to happen at Fort Hood this summer, it’s this: Grass fires.
Now, that’s not really new. Grass fires pop up on post all the time, especially during the dry, hot summer months. And even more especially while units are firing hot bullets and tracers down range.
Fort Hood’s many thousands of acres of training space is great for firing weapons, driving tanks or digging fox holes.
But the grass, the dry brush and windy conditions can easily make for a quickly spreading grass fire.
In 2011, some 7,000 acres burned at Fort Hood’s “impact area.” And just a couple of weeks ago, about 160 acres burned in two separate fires; one of them coming close to Fort Hood’s western boundary, where homes weren’t too far away.
But here’s the thing — grass fires at Fort Hood are a way of life.
Hot bullets, tank rounds or other ordnance mix well with the Texas landscape to sprout grass fires.
This state has also been having drought-like conditions for three years or more now, fueling the possibility of big, hard-to-control grass fires.
But drought or no drought, grass fires pop up every year. Twenty years ago, when I was stationed at Fort Hood, I was called to pound out fires a few times.
Sometimes it was my unit that had done the firing on the range that day. Sometimes it was another unit, and we got called out of the barracks to go help fight the fire.
Chances are, if you are a junior enlisted soldier training at Fort Hood this year, there will probably be at least one occasion where you will be called to dig out your entrenching tool and smack down a grass fire.
But the real folks who continuously have to battle Fort Hood grass fires are the people who work at the Fort Hood Fire Department.
One of our photographers was out with them as they battled the fires last month. It was a long two-day battle that included watching for flare-ups overnight.
Army training is not going to stop, so the chances of fires from hot bullets will continue. But the fires of Fort Hood have a number of causes, including natural and man-made. Soldiers can do their part by not throwing away burning cigarette butts or other careless actions.
Thankfully, the typical grass fires on post does not result in injury or someone losing a house.
Let’s keep it that way.
Jacob Brooks, a former Army tanker, is the city editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7468.