The Ferguson House fire, as it has become to be known, tested our men and resources. District 3 Road Foreman Kenny Kinder and 10 of the guys spent most of their three-day holiday weekend providing support for firefighters as they struggled to gain control of the runaway fire which spread rapidly over some 40,000 acres and burned 11 homes.
In addition to four (4) graders cutting fire breaks, District 3 had an 8,600 gallon water tanker to replenish fire department’s brush trucks and tankers. We also had a fuel truck to refill water pumps and gasoline/diesel trucks. Our service truck repaired flat tires and we used three (3) truck tires from our own stock to put on fire trucks to keep them operational and in the field.
Hot and dry weather is still a big factor in what we can do to the roads. Our concern, too, is the long term affect of severe dryness on oil and chipped improved and gravel roads. Cracks caused by the lack of ground moisture allow water to seep into the road surface and base. This causes deterioration when it freezes in winter.
As part of the FEMA (reimbursement and mitigation) project, we have scarified and reshaped one-half mile of Red Elk Road, from Bishop Road going south. We will oil and chip it later this summer after we have some traffic on it, and hopefully some rain, to determine if there are any bad spots. We did not make it to Deyo Mission Road as I reported last month, but we are stockpiling the material and will get to it soon.
The big event for us this past month was the Medicine Park fire. Road Foreman Kenny Kinder and a number of the guys responded on the Thursday evening the fire jumped State Highway 49 off Ft. Sill. They worked until 7:00 a.m. the next morning. At 8:30 a.m., the Medicine Park Mayor called for our grader again and the crew went back to provide support after little or no sleep and worked until 5:00 p.m. when they were released.
In addition to the grader, we had our 8,000 gallon water tanker and a fuel truck to provide water and fuel to the firefighters. The Volunteer Fire Departments and other Fire Departments did an outstanding job in containing the fire and preventing it from doing more damage than it did.
Earlier in the month, Medicine Park asked us to reopen a road, Merry Circle Rd, which was established when the town was platted in the early 1900’s. Mark Barefoot spent over a week on the dozer working on the road. During the fire it became a fire break, and the newly opened road was credited in saving downtown Medicine Park.
The May rains were welcomed and have allowed us to start grading roads. The grader operators have started working their assigned areas, beginning with roads most traveled. There was some flooding in the Chattanooga area, which required some additional road material to repair damage caused by water running over the road. The heavy rains also gave us an opportunity to see which tinhorns needed to be cleaned out. Of course, with rain comes the grass and we have also started mowing.
As part of the FEMA project, we have started the “redo” of Big Bow Rd, from Old Cache Rd to a half-mile south of Coombs Rd, as well as Chibitty Rd, from Tackle Box Rd north to McIntosh Rd. We have scarified the old blacktop to work it into the base, reshaped the bar ditches and replaced some of the old tinhorns that were damaged. We have also put in new tinhorns for the landowners who wanted to purchase them. These roads were topped off with a layer of 1 ½” gravel to prevent it from getting slick when it rains. As I said last month, this material will become part of the base when we chip-and-seal it later this summer.
We received a bridge inspection report from an engineering company on our bridges. All passed inspection; however, we did do some minor maintenance on three. Blue Canyon and 7 Sisters bridges are on the Meers-Porter Hill Road, and the other bridge is on the Comanche-Caddo Line Rd. These structures were sound, but the problem was scouring on the downstream side and was fixed by filling it with large rocks. (An item of interest, the 7 Sisters Bridge was built in 1915, which is a testament to our forefathers engineering skills.)
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