Community members get answers after fireball lights up sky in Burnet County

Local

BRIGGS, Texas (KXAN) — Firefly Aerospace held a community meeting Saturday in Briggs to discuss and answer questions on the “anomaly” during a rocket test at a Burnet County aerospace facility in January.

Firefly says no one was ever in danger, but local first responders evacuated people anyway — causing confusion.​ For the first time, Firefly leaders said Saturday there was an error while loading a software file. During a typical test there’s supposed to be 240 pre-checks, but January’s test loaded none of them. ​​​

According to Christina Kang, a spokesperson for Firefly Aerospace, an incident during routine testing ahead of a planned spring launch for its Alpha rocket caused a small fire on the test stand that was quickly put out.

Despite initial reports of an explosion, both Firefly and the Burnet County Sheriff Calvin Boyd confirmed that there was never an explosion.

“The people in the community, they heard an explosion. They saw an explosion. The company explained to me that it was a fire,” said Burnet County Sheriff Calvin Boyd.

The Firefly leadership team released a statement directly after the incident:

“We apologize for any inconvenience caused and we will be working with the local emergency response team to ensure that the local community is kept aware of actions in a timely manner.

We will be hosting a community day soon to explain what happened and answer any questions.”

During Saturday’s town hall at the Firefly Aerobase, community members got some of the answers they were searching for.

“Noise is going to get loud and more frequent,” said Craig Daniel, Briggs resident. “We have to listen to it while he’s trying to make money. At least he couldn’t do it between 8 and 5.”

​As the ordinance goes, tests are supposed to stop at 8 p.m.​ Folks here say that isn’t always the case. ​Firefly’s CEO says that’s because of some critical deadlines.​​

“We have contracts that we have to fulfill,” said Firefly Aerospace CEO Tom Markusic. “Some of our contracts can be up to $100 million. Some of them are smaller.”

​​”Could you like put a red flag out when you’re going to fire,” said a community member in attendance.

​​To help mitigate the loud disturbances, Firefly leaders are hoping to come up with a way to alert community members prior to testing.​ Whether that’s through social media, email and a text message alert system. The warning could come between five minutes to an hour prior.​​

“I kind of wonder if he hadn’t had that oopsie, if we would have ever known or had this opportunity.,” said Craig Daniel. ​

​Since Briggs is largely a farming community, another concern is water consumption. Firefly’s CEO says they only use about three households worth of water in a year.​

Community members say this is one of the largest buildings in Briggs, and it should be conserving water. ​Firefly is promising to apply for grants to make that happen.​

While the air is cleared with the first-responders, Firefly leaders and community members are relying on transparency and accountability moving forward.

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