ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Wednesday, August 23, marks five days since the Hill Top Fire first broke out in flames in central Taylor County, and now that it is fully contained, members of the Abilene community want to express their gratitude.

While many residents found information about the fire on their phones or television while sitting inside, others did not have that luxury. Service workers were out in the scorching heat, battling the flames to get this fire contained. 

Because of this, the sounds of applause and gratitude filled Abilene Aero on Wednesday morning. Service workers, mainly including air tanker pilots, were surprised to meet this crowd after their debriefing. 

“We don’t usually get accolades or thanks, really. It’s a little different,” Air Tanker Base Manager Mike Pederson said. 

These pilots typically fly straight from the fire to their base, rarely getting to meet the people they help. While they are fighting against heat and time, Pederson said they aren’t thinking about a reward. 

“Most of us are just here to do the job. We enjoy serving the community,” Pederson explained. 

Since the fire was nearby, the Abilene community organized a special event. Samantha Baker, who had been helped by the air tankers, posted on Facebook to invite others to show support.

“I am one of the residents that lives on the south ridge of Hill Top, and on Friday, I had gotten a bunch of messages saying that a fire was starting. We were planning to evacuate before the wind had shifted,” Baker shared. “Their quick decisions and their quick efforts helped mitigate the wildfires.” 

Baker, along with the others who came to show support, had the opportunity to go inside one of the air tankers used to fight the Hill Top Fire. 

“We saw all of the tankers planes just doing God’s work and taking out the fire,” Baker added. 

Pederson shared that four air tankers, four fire bosses, and helicopters were used to put out this fire. He added that the crews love their jobs and the communities they serve.

Pederson says they do this job because they love it, even if they are not often recognized. However, this job not only saved Baker’s home, but many homes around it. 

“You know, Abilene, when they hear a call to help and a call to appreciate especially our first responders, they will show up,” shared Baker. 

The Hill Top Fire, said to be caused by a lightning strike, burned 200 acres. Powerlines and a repeater building were significantly damaged, but no other structures were reported damaged.

From all of us at KTAB/KRBC, we would also like to say thank you to those who tirelessly worked on this fire.