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Wind turbine blamed for Rhodes Ranch 3 Fire in Mulberry Canyon south of Merkel 

Credit:  Laura Gutschke | Abilene Reporter-News | Aug. 27, 2019 | www.reporternews.com ~~

A motor on a wind turbine caught fire and is blamed for sparking a wildfire Monday in Mulberry Canyon in southwest Taylor County that has burned about 250 acres.

The Texas A&M Forest Service was called about 6:30 p.m. Monday to assist several volunteer fire departments to fight the wildfire northwest of the intersection of FM 89 and County Road 351. The area is about 26 miles southwest of Abilene.

By Tuesday afternoon, the fire was 60 percent contained, according to the forest service website. No structures have been burned, said forest service spokeswoman Mary Leathers.

A helicopter flies toward a stock tank after dropping water on the smoldering remains of the Rhodes Ranch 3 Fire in Mulberry Canyon Tuesday. (Photo: Ronald W. Erdrich/Reporter-News)

Fighting the fire is a challenge because of the “very rough” terrain near the wind turbine that had caught fire, she said. Monday’s record temperatures, which reached 109 in Abilene, acerbated the firefighters’ efforts.

“The fire’s up on those ridge lines, and then it burned down into a little bowl, a little canyon area,” Leathers said. “So, that’s why it’s kind of tedious work getting there because there are some areas where the bulldozers can’t get so we’re having to look at natural features to hold the fire.”

The Rhodes Ranch 3 Fire in Mulberry Canyon in southwest Taylor County has burned 200 acres and was only 50 percent contained as of Tuesday. (Photo: Courtesy View Volunteer Fire Department)

First on the scene was the Mulberry Canyon Volunteer Fire Department, Leathers said. Additional VFD personnel and resources were sent from Elm Creek Citizens Association, View, Blackwell, Merkel and Nolan. Taylor County Precinct 1 personnel also have assisted, the View VFD reported in a social media post.

Aerial attacks on the fire Monday evening included a heavy tanker and single-engine airplane spreading fire retardant and a helicopter dropping water on hot spots. Two other forest service airplanes also were in the area to provide aerial supervision and lead the heavy tanker, Leathers said.

Flames from the Rhodes Ranch 3 Fire burn near wind turbines on Monday. (Photo: Courtesy Texas A&M Forest Service)

Dozers and graders were being used to build containment lines, and brush truck and engine crews monitored the area for hot spots and the fire breaking over the lines.

The forest service expects to stay at the fire site until it is 100 percent contained, Leathers said.

“We’re hoping to get some rain on it. That would help us greatly,” Leathers said.

The forest service has named the incidence the Rhodes Ranch 3 Fire because of two previous fires in the area, Leathers said.

According to Reporter-News files, a 2009 fire in Mulberry Canyon burned for several days and scorched more than 2,000 acres.

A burned-out wind turbine sits idle above Mulberry Canyon Tuesday. The machine caught fire Monday, sparking Rhodes Ranch 3 Fire. (Photo: Ronald W. Erdrich/Reporter-News)

The Rhodes Ranch 3 Fire started on Monday along a Mulberry Canyon ridge line, which has steep grades and rocky terrain. (Photo: Courtesy Texas A&M Forest Service)

Other wildfires in the region

The forest service also is fighting wildfires in other parts of dry, hot West Texas. Here are the updates from the forest service website as of Tuesday afternoon:

► Nolan County – The Table Top Fire in the southwest corner of the county has burned 202 acres since it started Sunday. It is 20 percent contained.

► Hardeman County – The Copper Breaks Fire is 99 percent contained after starting 10 days ago. It consumed 7,206 acres.

► Foard County – More than 12,000 acres have burned in the Vivian Fire that started Aug. 20. It is 72 percent contained.

Source:  Laura Gutschke | Abilene Reporter-News | Aug. 27, 2019 | www.reporternews.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial educational effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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