Aerial fire retardant
The Texas A&M Forest Service helped fight wildfires at Fort Hood, Texas, with heavy aircraft dropping fire retardant to slow the fire down. In all, more than 33,000 acres were affected by wildfires on the installation. (Photo Credit: Photo courtesy 36th Engineer Brigade) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT HOOD, Texas - Hoping to provide information on the wildfires that, to date, have consumed more than 33,175 acres, Fort Hood officials met with local community leaders and media members, March 28, to discuss firefighting strategies and to update the public on their efforts to contain the fire.

“We’ve done a lot of things over the last few years to mitigate the risk of wildfires,” stated Col. Chad R. Foster, commander, U.S. Army Garrison-Fort Hood. “If we had not done those things … this situation had the potential of being a lot worse that it is.”

He added that preliminary findings point to a range fire, caused by small arms and mortar training, which burned out of control because of high winds, and was not a result of prescribed burns.

Since 2020, the installation has conducted prescribed burns covering more than 35,688 acres, as well as 844 miles of fire break maintenance, the colonel said.

Efforts to contain this year’s fire have included more than 200 water airdrops by Texas National Guard, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Texas A&M Forest Service, as well as bulldozers and personnel from these agencies and Fort Hood to cut fire breaks and conduct backburn operations.

Fire break
Ground crews from the 937th Clearance Company, 36th Engineer Brigade, cut miles of fire breaks at Fort Hood, Texas, in an effort to contain wildfires in the installation's training areas. (Photo Credit: Photo courtesy 36th Engineer Brigade) VIEW ORIGINAL

Andrew Lima, Fort Hood fire chief, added that as of Tuesday, these operations, despite increased winds, had effectively held the fire to its current 33,175 acres burned. As of March 30, the on-post fire was 80% contained, while the off-post fire in Flat was 95% contained.

“At this time, we have no structural damage or injuries to report,” he said.

Mary Leathers, public information officer with Texas A&M Forest Service, added that the Forest Service is working the fires that come off the installation onto private land.

“We have dozers that are constructing what we call containment lines and also have an engine working those areas of concern,” she said.

Leathers explained that their multiple mission aircraft is flying over the fire, providing detailed mapping and infrared flight information they need to keep this fire in the “box.”

“The aircraft can help us slow the fire down,” she said, “but it’s the ground resources that are going to put the fire out.”

Despite these efforts, strong winds and dry brush only help spread and feed the wildfire, threatening the adjacent Bell and Coryell counties.

In those instances, Foster said, it’s imperative that we “get all of our experts together … to talk about how we can speed up communications even faster to posture ourselves to react to something like this even further.

“This isn’t just about Fort Hood,” he said. “Our Soldiers and their families live in the surrounding communities. They attend area schools. We are doing everything in our power to contain this fire and put it out.

“The relationships that this team has built with our teammates throughout Central Texas pay in dividends every day,” Foster said, “but in this situation, you’re really seeing that, and we’re very grateful.”