Firefight

A UH-60 Black Hawk prepares to drop water on the Blackwell Range fire July 31.

Fort Hood firefighters were continuing to fight blazes on the ranges on post Wednesday.

On Tuesday afternoon, mere hours after firefighters reached 100 percent containment of the wildfires in the northern training area, a new fire started at the Blackwell range, commonly used by tanks and other vehicles for live-fire training exercises.

“The current weather conditions continue to pose a severe fire threat not only on the installation, but off the installation, as well,” Fort Hood Fire Chief Sergio Campos said in a release. “Therefore, I am concerned about the threat of fire ... period. As I am sure any fire chief would tell you, the main concern is an urban wildland interface incident, such as the fires experienced in Coryell County and other parts of Texas, which threatened residents.”

Despite questions from the Herald, Fort Hood officials have not said what started the Blackwell fire or other fires that were burning on post last week.

The Blackwell fire began less than 24 hours after a quarter inch of rainfall Monday brought a welcome respite to firefighters working to contain the fire in the northern training area. Monday night, the post’s Directorate of Emergency Services cleared all firefighting assets from the area, while smaller blazes to the south remained confined to the post’s permanent dud area.

“The fact that we were able to pull back resources and relatively return to normal operations is a blessing,” Campos said. “We all need time to reset mentally and physically, so we are ready for the next fight.”

Though smoke from Tuesday’s Blackwell Range blaze could be seen from miles away, post officials said no personnel or structures were in imminent danger.

According to information received from the Fort Hood Press Center, firefighting efforts Wednesday included attacking the Blackwell Range fire by air with Black Hawk helicopters armed with water-filled buckets. Bulldozers are also helping to contain the fire and ground crews are attacking hot spots, officials said. The post also received assistance from the Killeen Fire Department under its mutual aid agreement.

The Killeen Daily Herald sent questions multiple times last week and this week about the wildfires to post officials; however, Fort Hood failed to answer them by late Wednesday. The questions include:

Did any of the fires start on a specific range?

What training was going on at the time on the ranges where the fires started?

What units were doing the training?

How much smoke from the fires is in the air above and around Fort Hood?

Outside communities are reporting smoke and falling ash. Is Fort Hood monitoring this/doing anything about it?

Who gave the OK for live-fire drills in fire hazard country?

Are Fort Hood officials concerned about affecting the air quality of the surrounding communities?

What will Fort Hood officials do to protect the air of troops and residents?

It is also unclear how the fires on post began.

Fort Hood leadership has authorized resumption of live-fire training on all ranges, but will continue to work the boundaries of the range area, starting with West Range Road to cut and improve fire breaks, according to a Fort Hood press release.

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