Wildfires

A U.S. Forest Service helicopter carries water from a pond off Highway 63 onto the blazes. One U.S. Forest Service official estimated the largest fire in the Zavalla cluster to be 30 acres. To view or buy photos from the event, visit lufkindailynews.com/photos.

An afternoon storm kept local fire departments busy Wednesday but provided little rainfall across Angelina County.

At the height of the storm, Angelina County firefighters battled a total of 15 wildfires caused mostly by lightning strikes and supported by high winds, according to scanner traffic. The worst of those blazes appeared to be off Highway 63 in Zavalla, a fire started by a downed power line around 4:30 p.m., according to Dorothy Sutton with the Zavalla Volunteer Fire Department.

Zavalla Volunteer Fire Chief Richard Brunk said the department was battling four different blazes within two miles of each other around 6 p.m. Wednesday.

“The first unit on scene had fire at the tree-top level,” he said. “We tried to stop it several times with the dozer and it kept jumping the lines. We finally got it stopped here, but we’ve got a spot fire up here and another fire off 2109 and another fire off Pickard Road. All these were caused by downed power lines.”

Officials from the U.S. and Texas forest services were on the scene providing resources. A U.S. Forest Service helicopter was used to dump water from a pond off Highway 63 onto the blazes. One U.S. Forest Service official estimated the largest fire in the Zavalla cluster to be 30 acres.

Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Heith White was on scene to block traffic on Highway 63 as a multitude of volunteer departments were in and out with tankers.

Lufkin’s interim Fire Chief Ted Lovett went to Zavalla following the storm to help. He said that although Lufkin had downed lines, the city did not see a lot of damage.

“We had several reports of lines down when the wind kicked up,” he said. “We went out and there wasn’t any major fire damage, just power lines down.”

Right after the storm hit, a tree blocked FM 326 in Lufkin, causing a short delay for drivers. A motorist with a chain saw and chain in his truck solved the issue and had traffic flowing within minutes.

The website anythingweather.com stated Lufkin had .23 inches of rain as of 6 p.m. Wednesday.

According to the National Weather Service, today’s forecast calls for a 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms.

Jessica Cooley’s email address is jcooley@lufkindailynews.com.

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