Propane explosion causes 1 death as wildfires rage through Runnels County

Bill Hancock
Runnels County Register

ROWENA - A suspected propane explosion in Rowena on March 14, resulted in a house fire that claimed the life of JB Fuchs while sending his wife, Ethel, to the burn unit at a hospital in Lubbock.

The USGS map shows this area of Texas in extreme danger of wildfires. Several fires, up to 7, were reported throughout Runnels County. On Tuesday, 2 wildfires still raged, fueled by winds out of the north at 15 mph and gusting to 21 mph.

The Rowena VFD responded to the fire overnight and are credited by witnesses as pulling the couple out of the burning structure that was fully engulfed at the time. Both people were evacuated by helicopter to burn units in Lubbock.

7 wildfires were reported throughout Runnels County from Sunday evening to Tuesday. As of Tuesday, 2 wildfires still raged, fueled by winds out of the north at 15 mph and gusting to 21 mph.

Wildfires have consumed large swaths of Runnels County throughout Sunday and Monday. Volunteer fire departments from Winters to Ballinger to Rowena responded to at least 7 reported wildfires. Two large wildfires continued to burn as of Tuesday evening. One wildfire was three miles west of Highway 67, a few miles southwest of Ballinger. The other wildfire was burning a couple of miles north of the city.

The flames were fueled by parched land that hadn't received significant rainfall since August. The flames were pushed along by 15 mph winds from the north. The winds were gusting to over 20 mph, burning hundreds of acres in the blink of an eye like a blowtorch.

High winds have been forecast through the weekend as they continue to complicate the efforts of fire fighters who had been out battling them for well over 36 hours. The National Weather Service predicts a 70% chance of rain on Monday, March 21. If the rain doesn't materialize, it could be a long month for already weary fire fighters who will be battling the heat as well as the unforgiving infernos that quickly destroy any land or structures that they come into contact with.

This story will continue to be updated throughout the week.