Wichita Falls provides water to fight Panhandle wildfires

2022-05-20 23:28:35 By : Mr. Kevin Lee

Most people may not know Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway is a principle player in fire-fighting efforts, but the railroad company lends a vital hand to battling wildfires across Texas.

Tuesday evening, Wichita Falls firefighters helped fill a tanker car with water BNSF purchased from the City of Wichita Falls.

WFFD Chief Ken Prillaman said the tanker was on a train coming from fighting fires in Central Texas and stopped here to refill on the way to fires in the Panhandle.

"BNSF operates a pretty robust firefighting capability," Prillaman said. He said railroad tracks often run through land prone to wildfires.

"They've got regular fire department connections on that rig and that rig operates very similar to a fire engine. It's designed to fight fire," the chief said. "They have crews that are fully trained firefighters. They have hazardous material specialists."

Prillaman said railroads present a risk because sparks from wheels can start fires and the trains often carry hazardous materials.

"They accommodate that by training their own personnel to respond to it," he said. He said BNSF has helped WFFD and other area departments battle blazes.

Wichita Falls firefighters helped the BNSF crew load about 25,000 gallons into the tanker car. They used hose connected to a fire hydrant to pump the water..

Prillaman said this was the first time the city has been called on to fill a tanker and charged the railroad regular commercial water rates.

Texas has seen tens of thousands of acres burn in recent weeks with several serious fires in the Wichita Falls area.

Central Texas has been especially hard hit as has the Panhandle, which is in a severe drought. That region's main water supply, Lake Meredith, was just 34 percent full on Wednesday.

The Canadian River Bottom Fire in the eastern Panhandle had consumed more than 30,000 acres by Wednesday.

The fires prompted the Texas Farm Bureau to establish a West Texas Wildfire Relief Fund to help farmers who have suffered losses from the fires.