A sheriff’s deputy has died trying to help people escape a devastating Texas wildfire, officials say.
Firefighters are working to contain a sprawling complex in Midwest Texas that has grown to more than 45,000 acres in Eastland County and several neighboring counties.
Eastland County Deputy Barbara Fenley lost her life while helping to save people as the Eastland Complex area was flooded Thursday night, authorities said.
According to a statement from the Eastland County Sheriff’s Office shared by Eastland County Today, Fenley was on his way home to evacuate people when the fire spread to Carbon on Thursday.
“Extremely degraded conditions and low visibility from the smoke, Sergeant Fenley fled the road and was engulfed in flames,” the statement said. “He will be deeply missed.”
Fenley, 51, has been a deputy in the sheriff’s office since 2013, before serving as police chief in Gorman, Texas. She is survived by her husband and three children.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott recalled the damage at the top of a press briefing on the fire at the Eastland Fire Department Friday evening.
“We’re sorry for the loss of her life, but as a state, we have a lot of appreciation for what Texas law enforcement officers do every day, for her service, for taking action,” Abbott said. “They put their lives on the line to protect and defend their community. And he did just that.”
The flag was lowered to half the staff at Eastland in honor of Fenley, who will be officially honored at a later date, Abbott said.
“He just made the ultimate sacrifice to help people and I think that’s the biggest thing I want people to know,” his son John Fenley told Dallas ABC Affiliate. WFAA In an emotional interview.
The deputy was fondly remembered by his law enforcement colleagues.
“It simply came to our notice then [of] Our Eastland County deputies, who last night tried to save lives from the blaze, lined up, “the Cisco Police Department said in a statement Friday.” Our sister Barbara Fenley will be deeply missed. He was a special employee and a feature of our profession. We will offer our condolences to his family, friends and colleagues. “
The Lubbock Police Department offered its “deep sympathy” to the Eastland County Sheriff’s Office.
The department said in a statement that “Fenley gave his life trying to evacuate civilians from the fires in the Eastland complex, an area where first responders are still fighting.” “Thanks for your service, Deputy Fenley, we’ll get it out of here.”
Fenley was found Friday morning in the town of Carbon, which was devastated by the fire, officials said.
“It looks like a kind of lunar landscape,” Eastland County Judge Rex Fields told reporters Friday. “It’s an amazing amount of destruction.”
Fields said they have not found anyone else missing and the first responders will “sweep more intensively” with the dog in town.
Four fires met at the Eastland Complex on Wednesday and Thursday, which was estimated to have burned 45,383 acres by Friday night and was 15% controlled.
Eastland County Fire Chief Joe Williamson said during Friday’s briefing, “One message I want to exaggerate and convey is that we are still not out of danger because of our high-risk fire risk.”
Dry, windy conditions help fuel the complex and prevent the wind from reacting to the complex, which was 13,000 acres on Thursday evening.
Abbott said at least 48 fire departments in 22 different counties across the state have responded to help with the fire.
The governor said, “When you have such a big fire in these different areas, you need all the help you can get.”
The blaze destroyed at least 50 homes in Eastland, Brown and Comanche counties, Abbott said.
“Probably because we will be able to better observe the damage here in the coming days, we will find more than that,” he warned.
Abbott said Friday he would sign a disaster declaration to help 11 counties that are currently damaged or affected by wildfires.
In addition to the Eastland Complex, first responders are working on three more active fire controls in Reagan, Sterling and Ranales County.
Mike Noble of ABC News contributed to this report.