TAYLOR COUNTY, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – May 17, 2022. It’s a day engraved into many Taylor County residents’ minds, especially a number of families who lost nearly everything to the Mesquite Heat Fire. The fire burnt 11,000 acres of land and left multiple homes as nothing but ash.
Sheriff Ricky Bishop with the Taylor County Sheriff’s Office (TCSO) said he remembers the fire vividly.
“For me, it still feels like it happened yesterday. It’s something that’s going to be engraved for a long time,” said Sheriff Bishop.
Although difficult to think about, Sheriff Bishop said he is beyond thankful for all the hard work efforted by first responders and the community.
Taylor County Commissioner for Precinct 1, Randy Williams, said because of the wind and weather conditions, the fire quickly spread.
“There’s a lot of cedar up there and cedar is like a bomb. When a fire hits, it nearly explodes,” Williams painted.
When you drive down 277, you can begin to see new greenery. But Williams said those affected have a permanent scar.
“The land actually recovers much quicker than the people,” said Williams.
An entire year later, people are still picking up the pieces. As Williams explained, “The fire is just the tip of the iceberg. The real depth of the destruction happens in people’s lives, so we know that’s [an] ongoing process.”
Tina and Paul Munshower were among those who lost their homes. Using the term ‘fortunately’ lightly, this family was able to rebuild using insurance, investments, and savings.
“This is the longest place we’ve ever lived. This is more or less ‘home’ to us,” Mr. Munshower shared.
The Munshowers said they have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to rebuild their home. They even called themselves one of the lucky ones. But, Mr. Munshower said others in the area were not quite so lucky.
Although they are excited to move in, Mrs. Munshower told KTAB/KRBC she still pictures the home she lost as she stands inside her new house.
“I still see my old house when I drove off. The only thing I did was turn around, I looked at it, and that was it,” described Mrs. Munshower. “Everything was gone when we came back.”
The Munshowers lost countless family photos, jewelry, and other important personal items. Like many of their neighbors, they evacuated with just the clothes on their back, their family, and pets.
What’s kept them going through all the loss?
“Well, the lord,” Mr. Munshower revealed. “Our faith in God… We aren’t going to let the fire get the best of us.”