[portfolio_slideshow]By Matt Kelton Pioneer Sentinel
Twenty-six fire trucks from 12 departments attacked a wildfire that blackened at least 500 acres east of Jolly Friday, July 6.
Estimates sizing up the Dillard Ranch fire varied from 500 to 700-plus acres. The fire began in the northbound median of Hwy. 287, one mile southeast of Jolly, near the Whitaker home and a Dillard Ranches gate, and burned north and northwest between the highway and FM 2393 to within one mile of Shawnee Trail.
The Dillard Ranch fire endangered an estimated 50 homes in the Jolly area, including the Whitaker home, located approximately 75 yards from where the blaze was sparked. No structures or cattle were lost. The fire blackened pastures on the Whitaker, Dillard and Danny Mahler ranches.
Fire fighters battled not only the fire but the heat as temperatures reached 100 degrees.
Jerel Gehring and Billy Carlton, both fire fighters with the Henrietta VFD, were pulled from the fire line due to heat exhaustion. EMTs were called to assist Gehring. Both fire fighters were treated and released.
The fire was first reported shortly after 10 a.m. Friday morning, and was quickly contained to 40 acres by the Henrietta and Jolly VFDs with help from a private dozer operator. At 12:45 p.m., a rekindle was reported, and the fire quickly spread north across guards.
The fire was contained at 6 p.m. Two Texas Forest Service dozers arrived at 6:10 p.m. and cut a double fireguard around the fire to prevent hotspots from spreading. TFS dozers were on scene until after 9 p.m.
Rough, mesquite-laden terrain also played a role in fighting the fire. One Henrietta VFD truck was sent home with a busted windshield, while other units had flats and damaged tires.
Fire departments responding to the fire were Jolly, Henrietta, Wichita Falls, Petrolia, Dean, Lake Arrowhead, Arrowhead Ranch Estates, Lake Side City, Wichita East, Scotland, Archer County and Cameron Gardens.
Private dozer operators fighting the fire were Beaver Elledge of Petrolia, Jimmy Obermier of Henrietta and Jack Pickett of Rock Springs. Precinct 2 Commissioner Johnny Gee provided a motor grader to cut fireguards and Precinct 3 provided a tractor-trailer load of water.