Skip to main content
Employee loading aircraft

Texas A&M Forest Service Prepares for Wildfire Season in Central Texas

Coastal Air Strike ready to respond to Texas Wildfires

Special to the Fredericksburg Standard–Radio Post

Copy and Photos by LuckyLindy 7.17.23

Link to online article HERE

“Texas A&M Forest Service Prepares for Wildfire Season in Central Texas”

Fredericksburg, Texas– It’s Official. Monday, July 17, 2023 marks the beginning of wildfire season in the Texas Hill Country and surrounding region. Unlike the highly-anticipated arrival of spring wildflowers, this particular “season” is most unwelcome, if not downright dreaded. Fortunately, the Texas A&M Forest Service provides expert firefighting service both on the ground and in the air from its base at Gillespie County Airport in Fredericksburg.

Heavy spring rains provided temporary relief from the extended drought, but at the same time produced an extraordinary crop of grass, weeds and brush in Hill Country pastures and along roadways where a single spark can quickly become a full-blown wildfire spreading across hundreds of acres before local fire departments can contain them. Triple-digit temperatures and high winds only serve to exacerbate the danger.

Supporting these first responders, especially in hard to reach areas, are a fleet of air tractors under contract to the TFS provided by Coastal Air Strike based in Immokalee, Florida. The AT-802F pictured is the primary aerial firefighting aircraft, each capable of carrying 800 gallons of fire retardant with a cruise speed of 160 knots.  At present, four planes are based at Gillespie County Airport, on call 24/7 for deployment.

Gillespie County residents are asked to be vigilant for any sign of a blaze and immediately call 911 to report. From the TAMU Wildfires and Disasters Website on Friday July 14:  “Triple digit temperatures return to the forecast this coming week, causing surface fuels to dry and grasses to wilt. The heat combined with mostly sunny skies will increase ignition potential during the afternoon hours. Dry surface fuel may continue to support moderate wildfire activity on Saturday and Sunday across the lower Cross Timbers, Eastern Hill Country, South Texas, Central Texas, Southeast Texas, the Western Pineywoods and Upper Gulf Coast.”

For more information on wildfire activity state-wide and wildfire preparedness tips, check out:

 An Ag Tractor delivers fire retardant over a heavily wooded area. Photo courtesy of Coastal Air Strike 

Coastal Air Strike pilots Bryan Daniel and Nathan Higgenbottom confer with Gillespie County Airport Manager Tony Lombardi. 

Coastal Air Strike ground crew chief Samuel Guillen prepares to load 800 gallons of fire retardant and water on Air Tractor #878 currently based at Gillespie County Airport. 

AT 802F Air Tractors, owned by Coastal Air Strike currently on stand-by at the Texas A&M Forest Service facility at Gillespie County Airport