Thousands of acres in North Texas burned by grass fires
9 April 2009
published by www.star-telegram.com
USA — A grass fire that blackened as many as 100 parched acres in Parker County on Thursday afternoon was contained to a few hot spots by 8 p.m., fire officials said.
That blaze, which crept near the fence line of subdivisions but damaged no homes, was one of many fires that consumed grass and brush in the western counties of North Texas and sent a pall of smoke over eastern areas. No injuries had been reported by late Thursday.
Eleven fire departments fought the flames on the border of Hudson Oaks and Weatherford. Its a heavily wooded area and the fire was difficult to get to, said Joel Kertok, a Parker County spokesman.
The blaze was fueled by wind gusts up to about 40 mph and a relative humidity of 6 percent, he said.
Residents of 50 homes were asked to evacuate in the Turkey Creek, Lake Hollow and Wood Creek subdivisions, but the evacuation was not mandatory, he said.
For most of the afternoon, winds blew from “west to east, bringing in the haze and smoke we saw in the eastern counties,” said Jesse Moore, a National Weather Service meteorologist.
“We had perfect conditions for wildfires to spread rapidly once they developed,” Moore said.
Marjorie Douglas said she was overcome by smoke while using a garden hose to douse her yard on Rustic Harbor Court in Weatherford. A neighbor called firefighters when she saw Douglas crumple to the ground.
“A couple of city employees took the hose from me,” Douglas said. “When I looked up again, I was breathing oxygen from a mask.”
The fire burned the yards of homes on Rustic Harbor right up to the fence line. Dead and decaying vegetation provided fuel, and the high winds kept the fire moving around, said R. Mays, a firefighter with the Weatherford Fire Department.
“That thatch doesnt burn, it just smolders,” Mays said. “And sometimes it can smolder for days.”
Arcing power lines on North Oakridge Drive probably started the Hudson Oaks fire, said Lt. Chris Crawford, a Weatherford police spokesman. No injuries were reported in Parker County, but a barn and a boat were destroyed, he said.
Wind gusts delayed flights at Dallas-Fort Airport by about an hour and 45 minutes, an American Airlines spokesman said.
There was at least one cancellation and one flight diverted to another airport. The Federal Aviation Administration air traffic control system put a ground delay in place around 3:15 p.m., which reduced the flight arrival rate to less than half the normal rate. That slowdown was expected to stay in effect until around 9 or 10 p.m., airline officials said.
“Our biggest problem is extremely strong cross winds heavy, westerly winds,” said Tim Smith, the American spokesman.
In Wichita County, “the smoke was so heavy that you couldnt see, and it was pretty tense for a little while,” Sheriff David Duke told The Associated Press by telephone Thursday night. “At one point, we had 10 fires burning, and we were going from one to the other.”
More than 5,000 acres near Electra burned, destroying an agriculture companys buildings and warehouses, Duke said. Thick, black smoke prompted authorities to shut down a few miles of Texas 287 for several hours, he said.
Authorities also evacuated about 800 residents and a nursing home in Electra, but they were allowed to return by evening as the fire was contained and did not reach the town, Duke said. Several buildings in other parts of the county were destroyed, he said.
In Montague County, about 25,000 acres burned near Stoneburg where 10 buildings burned, and some injuries were reported, Chief Sheriffs Deputy Chuck Barr said. He did not know the extent of the injuries.
Another 35,000 acres burned near Bowie, where about 50 homes were evacuated, according to the Texas Forest Service.