Senior Jack Craft battled the massive Smokehouse Creek wildfire with the Locust Grove Volunteer Fire Department on Tuesday, Feb. 27. Photo provided by Jack Craft.
Senior Jack Craft battled the massive Smokehouse Creek wildfire with the Locust Grove Volunteer Fire Department on Tuesday, Feb. 27. Photo provided by Jack Craft.

Battling the Blaze

Students, teacher join fight against Smokehouse Creek wildfire
Sophomore Mark Haygood fights fire on his family ranch Tuesday, Feb. 27. Photo provided by Jacqui Haygood

Fire, smoke, and ash.

Starting in Hutchinson County on Feb. 26 and burning over a million acres, the Smokehouse Creek Fire has left over a hundred structures burnt, 48 having been occupied, and is still burning.

Fire departments, such as Darrouzett, Canadian, and Booker, as well as volunteer departments like Locust Grove, have been working around the clock for the past two weeks with organizations: West Texas A&M forest service, 4-H, and many more. Senior Jack Craft, sophomore Mark Haygood, and Ag. Teacher Brandon Meier are a few of the many that fought the fire.

“It was so fast moving,” Craft said. “Trying to stop the fire wasn’t even something to think about. It was just planning ahead like we need to get those people out of their home before it gets to them.”

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With the rain over the past couple of months, grass and foliage have prospered, leaving a path of fuel for the fire.

“It was just a perfect storm with all the wind and the low humidity and the grass we had,” Craft said.

Craft has been around the fire department his whole life and has been volunteering for three years. He has been to fires and accidents, big and small. Smokehouse Creek proved the biggest and closest one for Craft when, on Monday night, he was down in a low bottom, the flames coming over, down into it.

“The wind had caught the fire and changed gears really quickly,” Craft said. “At that point it started coming, and the fire was coming right at me. It was about 3 feet away. My mask melted on the right-hand side, burned off my arm hair.”

As well as another incident occurring at Richard Murray’s house on Marshall Drive. Craft and his father “couldn’t see anything.” The only inkling of location they had was through the use of the thermal cameras in their military truck. But through the fire and the flame, Craft’s memorable story is seeing everyone helping out.

“People coming in from everywhere,” Craft said. “I think there was a person from Wisconsin bringing hay in, and I thought that it was just really cool to see people coming in from all around the United States.”

On the other side of fighting fires, Mark Haygood was helping move cattle and putting horses up in pens. He worked with Allison, Texas, and the local fire department.

“I’ve never really worked with the fire department before,” Haygood said. “But that’s what I want to do when I’m older. They’re pretty cool guys.”

Amidst all the cows and horses, Haygood had to leave and took his horses with him.

“Driving away seeing all the flames by the barn. That just kind of sticks in my head,” Haygood said.

Being in the fire department since 2013 and the Chief of Darrouzett since 2016, Brandon Meier had been sitting in his office all of Monday watching the fire.

“I was on a phone call with my guys up there in Darrouzett and told them if it jumps 83, we’re coming down,” Meier said.

Smokehouse Creek Fire jumped 83.

“I met my trucks up in Lipscomb, got on a fire truck and we saved the town of Glazier,” Meier said.

Directing fire traffic, checking on homes where he knew students lived, Meier saw houses and barns burning, but Darrouzett couldn’t save them. Back and forth, Meier and his team went from protecting Glazier and making a dirt line from Higgins to Canadian.

“We were fighting fire because they needed everybody,” Meier said.

The team of Darrouzett put out fires on the north side of Canadian and had four graders building the wall of dirt. With the knowledge of strong, changing winds, Meier, along with other departments, were watching Smokehouse Creek day and night.

“We’d go help Canadian put a fire out, and then shoot over to help Higgins, then come back and keep building the line,” Meier said.

Craft, Haygood, and Meier worked Monday through Wednesday on little food and little sleep to protect the citizens of Glazier, Canadian, Higgins, and more. The fire is still burning and the remnants of char and agricultural over the million of acres traversed are unrecognizable, replaced with sandy hills. But in the midst of the heat and danger, there were heroes aplenty.

“The best part of it all was actually fighting the fire with Jack because he’s my student,” Meier said. “I think that was the coolest thing ever as a teacher. You see him here and you train him to start being a leader in the real world. That was real life experience. This is why we teach you to be ready for the real world – for the next chapter to come. And actually, seeing him do that was nice.”

Senior Jack Craft battled the massive Smokehouse Creek wildfire with the Locust Grove Volunteer Fire Department on Tuesday, Feb. 27. Photo provided by Jack Craft.
Photo credit: Jacqui Haygood
Photo captures flames from volunteer fireman and ag teacher, Brandon Meier, as he helped fight the Smokehouse Creek wildfire last Tuesday. Photo credit: Brandon Meier

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Kenzie English
Kenzie English, Feature Editor
Hi, there! I’m Kenzie English and I am a Junior here at Canadian High School. I am 18 and absolutely love books! My favorite color is burnt orange and my favorite pastimes are reading, painting, baking, working on cars, and binge watching tv shows and movies. My favorite show is Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch, and my favorite movie is Labyrinth starring David Bowie.  I enjoy 70’s and 80’s music, mainly classic rock. In the future, I hope to be traveling the world and becoming a professional baker.
Ashley Perry
Ashley Perry, Staff Writer
I’m currently a junior at CHS, and my hobbies include cooking, sewing, listening to music, and bothering my dog. I’m also currently president of the 4-H club, stage manager for the theatre production, an employee at Alexander’s, and, most importantly, a writer for the CHS Cat’s Tale Newspaper.
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