In the spring of 2011, portions of West Texas were suffering through one of the harshest droughts in recent memory. In combination with high temperatures and gusty winds, a small fire in Coke County on the Wildcat Mountain Ranch quickly became too much for local fire authorities to control and had to call in surrounding agencies for help. The Wildcat Fire quickly jumped from a 540-acre fire to a 42,000-acre fire in one day as it made its way across the open range. More than 200 fire and emergency agencies eventually assisted in the blaze that spread out across 159,308 acres, cost more than $2 million to contain and burned for 14 days.
Caption: A U.S. Forest Service firefighter looks on as fires re-ignited during the day Monday due to the extreme dry weather and the high temperatures. The hills in southeast Coke County made it difficult for firefighters to reach the flames.
Coke County Sheriff Wayne McCutchen goes door-to-door in Bronte, Texas enforcing a manditory evacuation as a massive wildfire moves it's way north toward the town. The order was later canceled.
Richard Buchanan packs the family van, heeding a mandatory evacuation order in Bronte, Texas. A wildfire was quickly moving north toward the town.
Allison Buchanan carries a family pet to the car as her parents and siblings heed a mandatory evacuation order in Bronte, Texas because of a fast-moving wildfire 10 miles to the south. The family was headed to a friend's house in Winters.
Eldorado volunteer firefighters Shay Parker (left) and Michael Jenkins wait by the side of the road for their next orders as a massive wildfire moves across open ranch land 10 miles south of Bronte, Texas.
Eldorado volunteer firefighters Michael Jenkins (from left), Shay Parker and Jerry Jones fill the tank on one of their trucks as they fight a wildfire 10 miles south of Bronte, Texas.
Volunteer firefighters from Eldorado receive their orders as a wildfire moves north toward Bronte, Texas.
Firefighters from Howard County receive orders for their next move at a staging point in Bronte, Texas. Firefighters from across the state converged on the town as a massive wildfire raced across open ranch land.
Firefighters begin to position themselves along FM 2662, 10 miles south of Bronte, Texas to battle the fast-moving Wildcat Fire.
Eldorado volunteer firefighter T.J. Rodriguez talks with fellow firefighters over the radio as they begin to battle the Wildcat Fire along FM 2662 south of Bronte, Texas.
Eldorado volunteer firefighter Shay Parker runs back to his truck as crews begin to move into position to fight a fast-moving wildfire along FM 2662 south of Bronte, Texas.
A bulldozer begins to make a fire break line as a fast-moving wildfire sweeps across open range land near Bronte, Texas.
The Wildcat Fire was quickly approaching the town of Bronte, Texas prompting officials to order a mandatory evacuation of the town. The order was eventually canceled.
Eldorado volunteer firefighters Chuck Jones (from left), Miguel Flinn and Adrian Martinez look on as a wildfire begins to move across open pastureland 10 miles south of Bronte, Texas.
A fast-moving wildfire makes it way across range land 10 miles south of Bronte, Texas. Officials ordered a mandatory evacuation of the town, but later canceled the order.
Volunteer firefighters from Eden begin to make their way to the fire line off of FM 2662 south of Bronte, Texas as a wildfire sweeps its way across the area.
Smoke, dirt and ash blows through a staging area for fire crews as a wildfire burns 10 miles south of Bronte, Texas.
Smoke and ash begin to blow across FM 2662 as a wildfire approaches Bronte, Texas from the south.
Firefighters wait for a wildfire to move closer before putting it out on FM 2662 south of Bronte, Texas.
A tanker filled with fire-retardant material flies in low over a wildfire site in Coke County.
Fire crews battle a wildfire in open range land 10 miles south of Bronte, Texas.
The Wildcat Fire continues to rage through open pastureland 10 miles south of Bronte, Texas. Officials ordered a mandatory evacuation of the town, but later canceled the order as winds shifted to fire.
A U.S. Forest Service helicopter drops a load of fire-retardant material near a home in Coke County to ward off an advancing wildfire that re-ignited Monday afternoon. The rugged terrain made it difficult for firefighters to reach the flames, having to rely on aircraft.
Thick plumes of smoke and ash fill the sky over southeast Coke County Monday afternoon due to an advancing wildfire. Crews continued to battle the blaze from the air due to the hilly terrian in the area.
Florida-based U.S. Forest Service members Jarrod Nobels (left) and Chuck Harden look on as a helicopter dumps mud onto burning trees near the roadside of U.S. 277 north of the Goodyear Proving Grounds Tuesday afternoon. The Wildcat Fire had at the time consumed more than 150,000 acres.
A tanker begins to drop fire-retardant material to keep a fast-moving wildfire from advancing across FM 2662 south of Bronte, Texas.
A McDonald-Douglas DC-10 dumps 12,000 gallons of fire-retardant material on the east side of U.S. 277 Tuesday afternoon just in case the advancing Wildcat Fire managed to jump the road. The tanker made three passes, each time having to fly back to Midland, Texas to take on a new load.
Colorado-based U.S. Forest Service members Marcus Olsen (from left), Bill Ross and James Habiger look for hot spots along U.S. Highway 277 Wednesday afternoon. "We've worked too hard the last couple of days to let this re-ignite and compromise the line," said Bill Ross, a 27-year veteran firefighter.
James Habiger, of the U.S. Forest Service, looks for hot spots along U.S. Highway 277 Wednesday as fellow firefighter Marcus Olsen backs him up with the water hose.
A Verizon crew works to remove a fallen tree burned in the Wildcat Fire from telephone wires on State Highway 208 Wednesday afternoon.
All of Hugh Stone's land, roughly 13,000 acres, was burned by the recent Wildcat Fire. "We've got about 15 to 20 miles of perimeter fence to rebuild," Stone said.