Firefighters converge in Wood County for controlled burn training exercise

Davidson said the burn at Mill Creek Farm will be over Sunday afternoon, but smoke could linger in the area through Monday.
Published: Feb. 17, 2023 at 3:03 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 17, 2023 at 3:30 PM CST

WOOD COUNTY, Texas (KLTV) - If you see a great deal of white smoke over Wood County this weekend, it’s likely from a controlled burn. But, it’s also an annual training exercise held in the Holly Lake area of Wood County that attracts many fire departments from across the state.

It is quite a gathering in the woods of Wood County, as evidenced by the variety of fire vehicles. Wood County Fire Marshal Tully Davidson said about twenty fire departments are in one place for a couple reasons.

“And it’s kind of a two-fold process where it’ll help structure protection and wildfire mitigation,” Davidson said.

Smith and Wood counties have their mobile command centers in place.

“What they do is they’re able to communicate with all the firefighters in the field,” Davidson said.

He said communication is key to safety and getting control over a wildfire. The training will give them direct experience to draw from.

“Get this as a muscle memory so everybody will be able to perform when they need them,” Davidson said.

The day’s drill: save a structure in the path of a wildfire. Drip cans are used to start a small test burn.

“Word’s getting out. We’re excited to have everybody from around the state here. You don’t get this kind of fire everywhere,” Davidson said.

Smith County Battalion Chief Cory Crowell said before starting a controlled burn, they look at wind and moisture.

“Down on the ground right now, we’ve got quite a bit of moisture on the ground itself, but the surface materials are all really dry, so today ought to be a good burn,” Crowell said.

“We’ll make a line around it, and just kind of let it burn slow, and backburn to it and use all the different techniques,” Davidson said.

Longview Fire Chief J.P. Steelman said many departments work in the world of structure fires.

“The wildland world being in the State of Texas has a vast array of different types of wildland settings. It’s important for us to know and understand and know how to work in those environments,” Steelman said.

Firefighters said the live fire training will eliminate much of the fuel that makes wildfires burn hot and help make control and saving structures second nature.

Davidson said the burn at Mill Creek Farm will be over Sunday afternoon, but smoke could linger in the area through Monday. It’s done in conjunction with Texas Parks and Wildlife and Texas A&M Forest Service.

KLTV's Jamey Boyum has more information on this weekend's controlled burn exercise.
KLTV's Jamey Boyum has even more information about the controlled burn exercise in Wood County.
KLTV’s Jamey Boyum talks with Wood County Fire Marshal Tully Davidson about a controlled burn and training exercise on Wood County over the weekend. Firefighters from across the state are involved.