Florida Forest Service assists firefighters battling 60% contained Game Preserve fire

Rosie Nguyen Image
Monday, September 4, 2023
Walker Co. fire reaches 60% containment, according to officials
The Florida Forest Service is assisting firefighters as they enter day three of battling the Game Preserve fire in Walker County, north of Huntsville.

WALKER COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- The Florida Forest Service is assisting Texas firefighters as they enter day three of battling the Game Preserve fire north of Huntsville in Walker County.

As of Sunday morning, the wildfire is 60% contained after burning 4,456 acres of a wooded area just off FM-247, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.

According to the Texas A&M Forest Service, the fire is currently burning at 4,428 acres in an update at around 5 p.m. on Sunday evening.

The forest services said its goal is to slow the spread of flames as much as possible.

Braunsch said officials are lifting the voluntary evacuation order that was encouraged for everyone within three miles of Lost Indian Camp Road.

Officials said residents of Pinedale, Cedar Ridge subdivision, Brimberry Road, and Brand for Christ Church can now return to their homes.

Several roads that were closed are now open, including FM-247 between Pinedale, FM-2989, and the I-45 feeder between FM-1696 and FM-2989.

"Be aware. Be cautious. We are monitoring the weather. There is expected rain this afternoon, too, so that could pick up a little dust," Braunsch said. "If the weather changes or that fire picks up, and we start seeing smoke on the roads, we will shut the roads back down. So be aware of that."

Lela Braunsch, with the Florida Forest Service's Incident Management Team, provided ABC13 with an update as crews arrived in Waller County Sunday morning to assist Texas firefighters who have been battling a massive wildfire since Friday.

The Texas A&M Forest Service told Eyewitness News that the weather conditions affected the fire risk in this area.

"It really is extreme drought in these places, and that has everything to do with the flammability of the forest. When the fire gets started, it's going to grow, it's going to move, it's going to go up into the upper canopy of the trees. Fire conditions are red hot right now, and that's why we want everybody to be very careful with anything that could put off sparks or be hot or have flame outside. Please just don't do it right now," Daniel Patterson, with the forest service, said.

Patterson said there are more than a hundred firefighters on the ground, working to try and control these flames.

On Saturday, SkyEye flew over the wildfire that grew 10 times its size since it ignited Friday afternoon. At first, SkyEye couldn't get close to the scene due to smoke clouding the sky.

The fire in a wooded area north of Huntsville went from 100 acres to 1,000 in a matter of three hours Friday afternoon. As of Saturday morning, the growing wildfire has tripled in size.

ABC13 crews said the smoky haze could be seen and smelled from miles away.

At this time, the cause of this fire is still under investigation, and officials said no homes have been lost.

SkyEye video from Saturday shows air operations dropping loads of water as crews worked to contain the fire.

The fire in a wooded area north of Huntsville went from 100 acres to 1,000 in a matter of three hours Friday afternoon. As of Saturday morning, the growing wildfire has tripled in size.

"The Game Preserve is a larger fire for east Texas and is the largest fire in east Texas this year, but it is not the largest we have had across the state this year," Erin O'Conner, with Texas A&M Forest Service, told ABC13.

Statewide 3 largest wildfires in 2023:

  • Bent Willow Fire, Potter County: started April 4 and burned 8,118 acres
  • Campbell Fire, Archer County: started Aug. 11 and burned 8,000 acres
  • Big Fin Flats Fire, Oldham County: started Feb. 26 and burned 5,569

East Texas 3 largest wildfires in 2023:

  • Game Preserve Fire, Walker County: started Sept. 1 and burned (as of Sept. 3) 4,254 acres
  • Shearwood Creek Fire, Jasper County: started Aug. 24 and burned 3,562 acres
  • Clear Lake Fire, Panola County; started Aug. 20 and burned 771 acres

The Texas A&M Forest Service has historical fire data and the largest fire information through 2022 on its website.

TIMELINE:

Information is provided by the Texas A&M Forest Service

Friday

The fire began at about 4:20 p.m. and was estimated at 100 acres.

By 7:37 p.m., the fire had grown 10 times its size, stretching across 1,000 acres, and a voluntary evacuation was issued.

At 9 p.m., the wildfire, named the Game Preserve fire, burned about 1,200 acres and was 10% contained.

Saturday

As crews worked overnight, the fire tripled its size, reaching 3,000 acres and 10% was contained.

At about 8:30 a.m., the flames were 20% contained, but the wildfire continued to spread another 800 acres by 12 p.m.

By 4 p.m., that number grew to 4,300 acres.

Four hours later, the Texas A&M Forest Service posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, saying the wildfire grew to 4,254 acres and was 40% contained.

Sunday

When the Florida Forest Service arrived in Walker County Sunday morning, officials told Eyewitness News the voluntary evacuation had been lifted. Officials added that the fire only grew two more acres and was 40% contained.

As of 5 p.m. Sunday, three days after it started, the fire was contained to 60% as crews continue to build widen and improve containment lines.