WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) —Due to the wind direction this morning, firefighters from Wichita Falls and surrounding areas got a later start on the prescribed burn out near the old Hawk Ridge Golf Club off Loop 11.
Fire personnel said they did this for training as well as to help prevent future fires in the 112-acre area.
Assistant WFFD Fire Chief Donald Hughes said they do it this way so an unplanned fire won’t start amongst the overgrown brush and potentially harm residences.
This area has a long history.
“They closed the golf course because they couldn’t afford the water,” former Wichita Falls District 5 City Councilor Charles Elmore said.
The Hawk Ridge Golf Club teed off for its final round in 2009.
Soon after, Elmore suggested it become a city park.
“Where Hawk Ridge is was part of my district, district four and five I felt were kind of the not necessarily neglected as much as ignored districts for Wichita Falls,” Elmore said. “It was going to be expensive there’s no question about that but it would have been a really I think boom for Wichita Falls to have that as a park.”
However, that never happened.
The land is up for lease now and Saturday, it was in flames to train local firefighters.
Nine different departments all working the prescribed burn makes for a good training field.
“We need to train together because we work together out in the county so this is good training for us so we learn to communicate,” Hughes said.
The crew of more than 60 split off into two different divisions.
Besides training, Hughes said this burn is meant to prevent a future unintentional fire.
“Not have to worry about this being a problem on a real windy day when we don’t have the opportunity to burn it like we want to,” Hughes said.
A wildlife enthusiast says while scouting the terrain beforehand, the WFFD didn’t find any animals, but the chief invited him Saturday.
He accepted the invitation, not to come and protest, rather offer a helping hand if any fire official were to find a reptile or animal.
“I actually used this area previously to release some orphan cottontail bunnies that I had raised,” Wichita Falls Reptile Rescue founder Michael Comella said. “I understand the need for the training and the importance, at the same time I’m also sad to see the habitat go up in flames.”
Hughes has been working with the property owners for over a year now to conduct this prescribed burn.
He said it wasn’t quite feasible last year due to rain.
“When we had that much moisture that builds this fuel load up even more out here so I don’t know if this has had anything much done to it over the last few years so there’s gonna be quite a bit of fuel burn off,” Hughes said.
Although Elmore has moved away, he hasn’t changed his mind.
“I still think the city needs to buy that as a park,” Elmore said.
Their job is complete on the old golf course.
There was potential the project would have to continue into Sunday, bu
Hughes said now it’s just about keeping an eye on it overnight and Sunday.