A TORNADO WATCH has been issued for Leon, Milam, and Robertson Counties until 5:00am Monday morning. A line of strong to severe thunderstorms is on its way to the Brazos Valley and should arrive between 2 and 3 am. Heavy rain, frequent lightning, and winds above 50 mph are our main concerns. However, an isolated tornado, especially in our northern counties, cannot be ruled out.
Dry conditions and high winds. They're why Brazos County is under a burn ban.
They're also why a fire northwest of Bryan got out of control.
"When I first got here in the fire truck, I could not keep up with the fire, driving and putting it out at the same time," said Joe Ondrasek, Brazos County's Precinct 4 fire chief. "If you were to be out on foot at that time, you probably couldn't have outrun the fire."
It was moving fast enough that brush burn gone bad went from five acres around 2 PM to nearly 300 in a matter of minutes.
"I got here and saw that it had a lot of potential," said Ondrasek. "The wind was very, very fast. We ended up calling in a lot of folks."
Hearne, Wheelock, Blackjack, Bryan, and four county precincts all came out to the FM 2223 area. Some 50 firefighters and 20 trucks all battled the blaze. Some deployed to an oil rig threatened by the fire. With a tight perimeter, they saved it.
In fact, the only known structural damage was to a barn and some fences. No one was injured. That doesn't reduce the magnitude of the fire.
"I think it's going to end up being one of the biggest ones," Ondrasek said. "This same field burned about 15 years ago, and it was a big fire back then."
But it could have been even bigger. Had firefighters not contained it in a timely manner, the city of Bryan could have easily been threatened.
"I knew that we had a lot of pasture land, but that pasture land has to meet somewhere with the city," said Ondrasek.
The man who started the burn has been issued a citation for violating the ban. The bill local authorities ran up to battle the fire will be high, but so were the stakes.
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