TAYLOR COUNTY, Texas — UPDATE (12:05 p.m. May 22): Taylor County Sheriff's Office: "Effective immediately, Sheriff Bishop is lifting the remaining access restrictions in the evacuated areas. There will remain a heavy Sheriff's Office presence in the area to help ensure public safety.
UPDATE (10:00 a.m. May 22): Taylor County Sheriff's Office: "The Mesquite Heat fire has expanded to 11,256 acres and is still at 25% containment.
AEP has replaced 170 poles and has restored power to everyone that can receive it.
We ask that no more donations be brought directly to View but instead be taken to Beltway Park South.
Monetary donations can be made through the Community Foundation of Abilene.
With the forecast of rain in the next couple days and because of the change to the soil from the fire, residents of the affected area should be aware of the possibility of debris flows."
UPDATE (10:45 a.m. May 21): The fire remains at 25% containment but there is still a risk of the fire taking off again due to winds. AEP continues to work on restoring power to affected areas and should be done by tomorrow. Traffic is moving slowly on Hwy 277S due to guardrail repairs and until it’s work being done. Some areas have pilot cars escorting traffic. If you have to use Hwy 277S be prepared for extended travel times, be cautious of unsafe conditions and look out for first responders / utility workers. The Taylor County Sheriff’s Office is maintaining a heightened presence in the area and along Hwy277S to help ensure the public's safety.
UPDATE (3:35 p.m. May 20): The Taylor County Sheriff's Office said Friday afternoon, as the Texas Division of Emergency Management starts assessing fire damages of homes, land and livestock, individuals are encouraged to report their damages to the TDEM website at DAMAGE.TDEM.TEXAS.GOV or scan the QR Code to help capture all costs associated to the Mesquite Heat fire.
Pictures may be required.
Taylor County will post this flyer under public notices on the Taylor County website at taylorcountytexas.org Friday.
The Abilene Mobile Vet Center is open to help veterans, active duty and family members with fire recovery resources.
The center has assistance to help fire victims regarding FEMA, VA’s disaster response guidelines and temporary housing assistance for those affected until insurance funds are available. It also has a variety of contacts to help in local financial assistance related to fire recovery.
They will be open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. beginning Saturday in the Home Depot parking lot, 4590 Southwest Drive. Call 877-WAR-VETS for more information or assistance.
UPDATE (2:20 p.m. May 20): According to the Taylor County Sheriff's Office, Buffalo Gap Baptist Church is available for those who have been evacuated/ affected by the fire or working on the fire for showers and to do laundry.
UPDATE: (12:15 p.m. May 20): Taylor County Judge Downing Bolls issued an order Friday partially rescinding mandatory evacuations related to the Mesquite Heat fire.
As of Friday morning areas of Taylor County where the order has been rescinded include:
- Town of Buffalo Gap
- Country Place South to FM 89
- Buffalo Gap West on Hwy 277
- South of FM 1235
- Hillside Road
- CR 297 East to Hwy 277
- Hwy 277 from FM 1235 to FM 89, Open to local traffic only, must show ID and live in the area to enter
The order said while this mandatory evacuation has been lifted, residents should continue to be on high alert and ready to move at a moment's notice.
The mandatory evacuation order remains in place for:
- Braune Road from CR 297 to Hidden Valley
- Hidden Valley Drive
- Braune Road from Hidden Valley Drive to Hillside Road
UPDATE (11:50 a.m. May 20): As of Friday morning, the Texas Wildfire Incident Response System lists the Mesquite Heat fire remains at 9,613 acres and 25 percent containment.
UPDATE (7:45 a.m. May 20): Taylor County Sheriff Ricky Bishop opened the following previously evacuated areas late Thursday:
- Hwy 277 from FM 1235 to FM 89, open to local traffic only, you must show ID and live in the area to enter.
- Areas east and west of Hwy 277 from FM 1235 to Buffalo Mountain Ranch
The following areas REMAIN CLOSED/EVACUATED.
- Braune Road from CR 297 to Hidden Valley Drive CLOSED/EVACUATED
- Hidden Valley Drive CLOSED/EVACUATED
- Braune Road from Hidden Valley Drive to Hillside Road CLOSED/EVACUATED
Utility companies are still working in the area and use caution while in area.
Be prepared to evacuate at a moment's notice.
UPDATE (6:24 p.m. May 19): Abilene Mayor Anthony Williams issued a correction to the previous number of estimated homes lost: "27 homes +/- destroyed. Earlier counts of 50-60 are wrong. Nine county residents are housed at the Beltway shelter."
UPDATE (1 p.m. May 19): The Texas A&M Forest Service tweeted that the Mesquite Heat fire has now grown to 9,613 acres with 5 percent containment.
The tweet said aircraft are working to reinforce fuel breaks between the fire and values at risk. Aircraft are also supporting ground crews with line construction.
The Taylor County Sheriff's Office said Thursday afternoon the City of Abilene is not in any danger from the Mesquite Heat fire at this time and there are no evacuation orders for any part of Abilene.
The fire was up to 30% contained before 2 p.m. Wednesday when weather conditions caused it to flare up and rapidly grow to more than double in size and has burned an estimated 5,000 acres. Currently the fire is 5% contained and with weather conditions similar to Wednesday it is anticipated that the fire take off again close to 2 p.m. again Thursday, the TCSO said.
Planes dropping fire retardant cannot drop anything in populated areas and will be concentrating on reinforcing established firebreaks. The TCSO asks residents to continue to exercise extreme caution if you live near the affected area and be prepared to evacuate if called upon. Taylor County Expo Center still available for animals.
UPDATE (11 a.m. May 19): Abilene Mayor Anthony Williams said Thursday morning that an estimated 50-60 homes have been lost as a result of the Mesquite Heat fire.
UPDATE (7:43 a.m. May 19): As of 7:45 a.m. Thursday, no updates have been given from the Lone Star State Incident Management Team - Texas A&M Forest Service regarding the Mesquite Heat fire. The fire remains listed as 5,000 acres in size and 5 percent contained.
The Taylor County Sheriff's Office said at 9 a.m. Thursday, May 19, volunteer fire departments participating in fighting the fire will meet at Taylor County Precinct 1 Barn in View for a briefing.
Taylor County Judge Downing Bolls issued a disaster declaration for the county Wednesday afternoon.
UPDATE (10:41 p.m. May 18): Abilene officials have issued a correction to the evacuation order for Buffalo Gap. Residents are being urged to stay away from their homes. Families should seek shelter elsewhere for the night. Officials will reassess the evacuation order on Thursday.
10:35 p.m. - Jim Ned CISD superintendent announced classes for the district have been canceled Thursday, May 19. In a social media post, Superintendent Glen Teal said the wildfire has displaced numerous families. He asked for prayers for everyone in harm’s way and for first responders.
10:02 p.m. - Abilene City officials announce that Buffalo Gap residents who evacuated can now return home. Officials added that those living on the west side of Buffalo Gap should remain on alert overnight because the Mesquite Heat Fire remains a threat.
More evacuations are being ordered by the Taylor County Sheriff's Office for areas affected by the Mesquite Heat fire:
- 9:10 p.m. - A disaster declaration has been issued by Taylor County for "widespread or severe damage, injury, or loss of life property resulting from zero contained wildfires spreading in the County."
Judge Downing Bolls Jr. has signed mandatory evacuation orders for Buffalo Gap and surrounding areas.
9:07 p.m. - Immediately Evacuate the following areas if you have not done so already:
- Buffalo Gap
- Denton Valley Road
- Buffalo Gap west of Hwy277
- South of FM 1235
- Country Place South to FM 89
- CR 297
- Hillside Road
- Braune Road
- 7:45 p.m. - Abilene Mayor Anthony Williams said in a Facebook post that close to 1,000 residents have been evacuated from the Buffalo Gap area.
- 6:33 p.m. - The fire is moving rapidly to the east. It is recommended that the residents in and near Buffalo Gap to prepare to evacuate or evacuate.
- 4:01 p.m. - We are now evacuating Braune Rd from Hidden Valley to Hwy 277 and all of CR 297. If you live in these areas evacuate immediately.
- 3:43 p.m. - We are now evacuating homes on Braune Rd between Hidden Valley Dr and Hillside Rd. If you live in this area please evacuate immediately.
- 2:29 p.m. - Braune Rd between Hidden Valley Drive and Hillside Road is being closed.
- 2:20 p.m. - We are recommending that the residents near the area of Braune Rd and Hidden Valley Drive prepare to evacuate or go ahead and evacuate. This is not a mandatory evacuation yet but the fire is starting back up in this area.
UPDATE (10 a.m. May 18): According to the Taylor County Sheriff's Office, the Mesquite Heat fire is approximately 1,500 acres and is currently about 10% contained.
"The forest service has requested additional services to assist in putting out the fire and because of the conditions and homes in danger, we are number one in line for further assistance," the release said.
Rep. Stan Lambert and Rep. Jodey Arrington's offices have been working closely to help and all area fire departments are cooperating seamlessly to fight the fires. Conditions improved overnight, but the fire could pick back up later Wednesday because of rising temperatures and falling humidity.
Hidden Valley Drive and Hillside Road remained closed to everyone except first responders. The forest service will be working heavily in these areas.
Braune Road and CR 317 are back open.
AEP Texas is currently working to restore power to the affected areas.
Donations are not being requested, the TCSO said, however, if you do wish to make any donations, please do so to the American Red Cross or at the View Baptist Church.
The Taylor County Expo Center has been helping to provide housing assistance to livestock and domestic animals.
The TCSO said it will be releasing regular updates on its Facebook page.
UPDATE: As of 7:30 a.m. May 18, the Mesquite Heat fire in Taylor County was 1,500 and 10 percent contained.
ORIGINAL STORY: Conditions in West Texas were once again ripe for wildfires Tuesday and by the end of the day at least four fires broke out across the area. A wildfire that ignited along Highway 277 near View, about 13 miles southwest of Abilene, forced the evacuation of at least three communities.
The Taylor County Sheriff’s Office posted on social media that homes in the following areas evacuated:
- CR 317/White Mines Road
- Braune Road
- Hidden Valley Drive
A Facebook post from the sheriff’s office said officials had no immediate plans to lift the evacuation order and that people are not being allowed back into the area due to the high probability of homes being in danger. The Taylor County Sheriff’s Office also said that 9-1-1 lines are being flooded with calls for status updates on the fire. Authorities say you should only call 9-1-1 in an emergency.
Officials are asking residents to seek shelter at View Baptist Church, 250 Boyton Road. The Taylor County Expo Center, 1700 Hwy 36, is offering its stables to anyone who is evacuating their horses from their properties threatened by the wildfire.
Four other fires broke out in West Texas Tuesday. Among them are the "Pope 2" fire in Schleicher County, the "Johnson Fork" fire in Kimble County and the "Mayfield" fire in San Saba County. In all, the four wildfires have burned more than 4,000 acres.
This is a developing story. Follow FOX West Texas on-air, online and on our mobile app for the latest information.