Fire Stories

Fire stories from the national parks highlight events, incidents, and the like, associated with fire and fuels management, as well as fire education, technology, partnerships, and more. Stories highlight work related to Department of the Interior initiatives as well as local and regional initiatives.

view of fire from the fprt davis headquarters building

View of the Rock House Fire from the Headquarters Building at Fort Davis National Historic Site. NPS photo by Rick Rackaukas, April 10, 2011.

Protecting Historic Structures from the Rock House Fire

Fort Davis National Historic Site, Texas
Cohesive Strategy—Fire-Adapted Communities*

Fort Davis National Historic Site has experienced extreme wildfire danger in 2011 due to pervasive drought conditions, high temperatures, high winds, and low relatively humidity. March 2011 was the driest in Texas history since 1895. The Rock House Fire started Saturday, April 9, 2011, approximately 22 miles south of the park near Marfa, Texas, and burned rapidly north to Fort Davis, exhibiting extreme fire behavior and reaching the park within four to five hours. Numerous private homes were destroyed as the fire moved through the town of Fort Davis and into the mountains toward Balmorhea. While there were several close calls, no park employee homes were destroyed.

map with outline of fire boundaries and topography

Rock House Fire map, click map to view larger size.

Approximately 106 acres of the Rock House Fire burned on the west side of Fort Davis National Historic Site on April 9. The fire burned through pinion-juniper, brush and grass in the higher elevation area of the park, most of it on land just acquired in January. The historic core of the park was not affected, and no park structures were damaged or destroyed.

Firefighters limited the fire's spread to contain it in the higher elevation areas of the park. Park resources mowed the grass around historic structures to provide defensible space and firefighters established hose lays to provide structural protection for historic buildings in the event of a spot fire. Firefighters also cleared brush in Hospital Canyon to reduce hazard fuels and create more defensible space between the fireline and historic structures in the park.

A Type 1 incident management team assumed command of the Trans Pecos Complex of fires, including the Rock House Fire, in 36 west Texas counties on April 12. Several Fort Davis NHS employees were assigned to the fire to help with logistics, ground support, and provide assistance in the local community.

Partners included Bandelier National Monument, Big Bend National Park, the Texas Forest Service and numerous local volunteer fire departments from nearby communities, including the Fort Davis Volunteer Fire Department (VFD).

Fort Davis NHS has provided rural fire assistance funding to the Fort Davis VFD each year since 2001 to provide personal protective gear and improve the department's wildland firefighting capability. This ongoing partnership helps foster collaboration at the local level and improves firefighter safety. The personal protective equipment provided through the rural fire assistance funding over the years allowed the Fort Davis VFD to safely respond to the fire.

The park was closed for public safety during the fire, but reopened on April 14. As of May 30, 2011 the Texas Forest Service reported the Rock House Fire was contained at 314,444 acres.

Contact: John Morlock, Superintendent
Phone: (432) 426-3224 x221

*This story supports Department of the Interior initiatives.