Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

‘Like a Nuclear Explosion:’ The Fire in Delhi

Photo by Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News

Rick Chafey is a volunteer firefighter in McMahan, Texas.

During last year’s record-breaking wildfire season, most of the nation’s attention was focused on the massive Bastrop Complex fire that raged throughout September.

But in the first days of the wildfires, several others burned out of control. One of those was in Delhi, in Caldwell County, south of Austin.

Rick Chafey, a firefighter in McMahan, recalls what he saw that day:

“We kind of pulled off and regrouped down the road and looked over on the horizon toward my house and there was just like a – it looked like a nuclear explosion. This huge, bubbling cloud and, of course, when you see a fire column typically it is going to go up and then start to drift, right? Well, this one, it was still fresh and so you could still see the top. It hadn’t started to drift yet, so it’s kind of mushrooming up. But it was already just gigantic, and so I guess at that point the fire had only been burning for probably like ten minutes. And it had already covered 100 acres, or something like that, because it was moving so fast.”

You can listen to Chafey’s story in the audio portrait above, produced by Emily Donahue of KUT News.

And stay tuned for more this week and next week in our series with KUT News on the Labor Day Wildfires, Forged in Flames.


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