Texas sheriff's deputy dies trying to save people from wildfires

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A central Texas sheriff’s deputy died Thursday while going door to door and helping people evacuate as several wildfires ravaged the area, authorities said.

Lamar County Sheriff’s Office

A Texas sheriff’s deputy died while going door to door and helping people evacuate as several wildfires ravaged the area on Thursday, March 17, authorities said. Over the past seven days, firefighters responded to 178 wildfires that burned 108,493 acres across the state, according to Texas A&M Forest Service News.

Eastland County Sheriff’s Deputy Sergeant Barbara Fenley died in the line of duty while assisting with evacuations. Fenley, 51, was among the multiple law enforcement agencies helping with traffic control and evacuations in Carbon, the sheriff’s office said in a statement. Eastland County is about 100 miles west of Fort Worth.

“With the extreme deteriorating conditions and low visibility from smoke, Sgt. Fenley ran off the roadway and was engulfed in the fire,” the Eastland County Sheriff’s Office said. “Sgt. Fenley gave her life in the service of others and loved her community.” 

Several wildfires, including those managed as the Eastland Complex in Eastland and Brown counties, are still actively burning across the state, the agency said on Monday, March 21. The more than 54,000-acre wildfire prompted evacuations, road closures, and damaged 147 structures.

The Eastland Complex fire, in the middle of the state, reached at least 54,015 acres by the morning of Sunday, March 20, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service. It was 30% contained by Sunday afternoon, the service said.

Texas A&M Forest Service is monitoring the situation closely and has prepositioned personnel and equipment across the state for a quick and effective response to any requests for assistance.   

“The extreme conditions present across the state last week, greatly impacted several communities and the Texans that live there,” Wes Moorehead, Texas A&M Forest Service Fire Chief, said. “These communities endured significant loss and we grieve with you.”

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