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Wednesday Night Fire in Terlingua Ghost Town

As of 8 AM, today (June 5), the devastation wrought by last night's fire is apparent.  Two local residents lost their home and an airstream they were in the process of restoring to add to their business, Retro Rents, is also destroyed.  The good news, if there is any to be found in this, is that their associated businesses which are located less than 100 feet in front of the destroyed structures, are intact.

The couple, Sam and Dani Bottenfield, are long time residents of Terlingua.  Dani owns the Painted Feather Gallery & Studio, a popular business to both local residents and tourists.  Sam owns Rio Vet Services and is the town's (and surrounding area) veterinarian.  Locals lovingly refer to him as Dr. Sam.

Dani, Sam and their dog, Bucky, are away from Terlingua on a family trip and they were unable to be reached for some time.  Barbara Taylor, another local resident and friend of the Bottenfields, spoke with them this morning.  Sadly, they had no insurance but many in the community are already discussing the best way to assist the Bottenfields.    As is typical of those who call Terlingua home, local resident and musician Trevor Reichman arrived at the Bottenfield's property as KRTS was on the scene.  His purpose was to see if there was anything he could do and to find out if anyone had yet begun efforts to establish a benefit.

Despite the 95+ degree heat and 15 mph winds, nearby neighbors and the Bottenfields had several things in their favor.  The first was the swift action of those first on the scene who shut down electricity and water.  Second was the speed with which the Terlingua Fire & EMS Services arrived and began to contain the fire.  Not knowing the origin of the fire and taking electrical and other factors into account, they held off using hoses until they were comfortable that it would not exacerbate the situation.  Finally, nature itself was in their favor.  Despite the heavy winds, the intensity of the fire and heat caused it to plume straight upwards and thus the thick black smoke rose to a high level allowing the toxins and smoke to clear the majority of structures and traffic in the area while the majority of flames remained under and in the structure.

Judy Boe of Study Butte Water has since returned to the scene and restored water supply so that the surrounding neighbors have service.  She also cordoned off the area with warning tape as the fire is still slightly smoldering although actively being watched by fire fighters and the sheriff's office.  Jimmy Taylor was on the scene as well, evaluating damage to ensure any other aspects of potential damage were taken into account and either repaired or temporary solutions put in place.

Among those fighting last night's fire, in full bunker gear, were Jimmie Ivy, Ben Elmore, George Garcia, Jesse Lujan, Joshua Helt, Christian as well as many of the National Park  Fire Rangers.  Malynda Richardson of Terlingua Fire & EMS and who runs pump and hose support and firefighter rehab said this morning, "I hate that Sam and Dani lost their home, but am very glad that no one was hurt."

KRTS will provide information as to any benefits or other support mechanisms established for the Bottenfields as soon as they are finalized.

Last night's report:

A fire broke out at approximately 7:15 PM on Wednesday (June 4) in Terlingua Ghost Town. As of 9 PM, Terlingua Fire and EMS trucks and personnel as well as those of Big Bend National Park and the Brewster County Sheriff were on the scene.  As of 9:55 PM, the fire is contained and under control although still smoldering.  National Parks, Brewster County Sheriff, and Terlingua Fire & EMS remain on the scene.

Although the Sheriff's Department is unable to give a formal statement at this time, the structures that are impacted are located behind the Painted Feather Studio & Gallery and are assumed to be part of the Retro Rents Camping and guest facilities.  It is also the area where Terlingua's veterinarian, Sam Bottenfield, DVM, and Dani, the owner of Painted Feather and Retro Rents reside.  Dr. Bottenfield and Dani are out of town at the present and there were no known occupants of the vacation rentals at Retro Rents.

As of 9 PM, nine emergency vehicles remain on the scene along with fifteen or more emergency personnel.  One airstream is totally devastated and another is seriously damaged, among other structures.  While the fire is under control it is not extinguished.  Emergency personnel are working feverishly, battling not only the fire but 95 degree heat and winds of 15 miles per hour.

We will provide more information as it becomes available.


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Sharron Reed is a resident of Terlingua, Texas and a correspondent for KRTS, Marfa Public Radio.