ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – The Texas A&M Forest Service announced the cause of the Hill Top Fire, about 10 miles south of Abilene, to be a lightning strike. However, much of our audience seemed confused because when the fire began last Friday, it was fairly dry.
We reached out to Mike Castillo, a Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in San Angelo, to get more insight behind the cause of fire.
Castillo told KTAB/KRBC he spoke with a district coordinator with the Texas Division of Emergency Management, “Their investigators determined it was caused by a lightning strike from a thunderstorm that moved across that area around 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, August 17th.”
Castillo continued to explain how a hunting camera in the area confirmed the lightning.
“Sometimes it takes a couple of days for the smoldering from the lightning strike to ignite a wildfire,” said Castillo, and with the weather conditions on the 18th, it allowed the wildfire to develop that day instead of the 17th.”
What is unknown is what the lightning actually struck. In that area, there are towers, a few buildings, or even a tree that could have been struck. Towers and skyscrapers are magnets for lightning strikes.
No other objects on earth are as frequently and predictably struck. That include Chicago’s Willis Tower, Toronto’s CN Tower, New York’s Empire State Building, and the Seattle Space Needle.
According to StormHighway, the taller the structure, the more lightning strikes it could experience. A 2,000-foot TV tower will initiate more strikes than a 1,000-foot one.
Many of these structures experience more than 100 direct hits each year. If lightning did strike a tower atop Eagle Mountain, the chances of that occurring are higher than you think.
However, whatever the lightning actually struck to cause the wildfire is still unknown at this time. The Hill Top fire is 90% contained at 400 acres as of Tuesday afternoon.