That was how Brown County Sheriff Bobby Grubbs described the flames in Monday’s large, fast-moving grass fire that scorched hundreds of acres on the eastern edge of the National Guard Camp Bowie Training Facility and adjoining private property.
The fire sent a massive cloud of smoke high into the air a few miles south of Brownwood, drawing caravans of sightseers on Austin Avenue south of Brownwood city limits and along FM 2126 after the fire started around noon.
Officials said no structures were damaged.
“I saw some high flames when it hit grass. It was moving fast,” Grubbs said as he drove his county-owned pickup slowly along County Road 267 late in the afternoon, driving by blackened pasture and maneuvering around trucks and personnel from multiple firefighting agencies.
No flames were visible at that point, but two yellow helicopters from the Texas Forest Service flew in the area, dumping water. Forest Service spokesman D.L. Wilkerson of Granbury said other Forest Service aircraft were en route to the area.
Wilkerson said at least 250 acres had been burned, while other estimates were as high as 700 acres.
Firefighters and equipment from numerous volunteer fire departments and the City of Brownwood, and representatives of agencies including the American Red Cross, responded to the fire scene. Firefighters from other neighboring counties also responded.
Departments represented included those from Brownwood and throughout Brown County plus others from Comanche, Coleman and McCulloch counties.
Brownwood Fire Marshal Buddy Preston said firefighters were “still hitting hotspots and flare-ups” late Monday afternoon. Preston said he did not know the boundaries of the fire.
Grubbs said the fire appears to have started on National Guard property,” Grubbs said. “Due to high winds, it spread rapidly. There’s been a tremendous turnout of volunteer fire departments. They did a good job containing this, I feel like,” Grubbs said.
Reports that the fire was started by ammunition used during training exercises could not confirmed by official sources.
There were no mandatory evacuations, but officials urged residents of several homes in the area, including those on CR 267, to leave. Officials did not have a count of the number who left their homes.
Justice of the Peace Walter B. Croft and his wife, Gail, said they went to help friends who have cattle and horses off CR 267 prepare to get their animals to safety, but that proved unnecessary.
Gail Croft said she saw the “mass destruction of what a fire can do” to pasture. “No homes were lost, thank goodness,” she said.
Croft said she saw “multiple fire units working together. There was teamwork up there.”
The fire could have been disastrous if firefighters had not managed to contain it as fast as they did, the Crofts said.