Wildfires scorch North Texas

Wildfires scorch North Texas

11 March 2011

published by www.star-telegram.com

USA — A fast-moving wildfire burned about 7,000 acres in its 12-mile path across Jack County on Friday, destroying six houses and forcing the evacuation of 150 residences, officials reported.

The evacuations were on the west side of Jacksboro near U.S. 380.

“We also had a report of a gas line rupture,” Mahlon Hammetter, a public information officer with the Texas Forest Service, said late Friday.

The houses that were gutted were not in the same neighborhood but were scattered throughout the burn area, Hammetter said.

The Jack County fire — fueled by high winds and low humidity — was one of many that popped up Friday across North Texas. Fires were also active in Bosque, Hood, Johnson, Somervell and Wise counties.

“We expected this would be a bad fire day, and it’s coming true,” said Marq Webb, another public information officer with the forest service. “The volunteer fire departments are running ragged.”

Two homes were destroyed in the Hood County fire southeast of Granbury, and one person was taken to a hospital, according to Brian Fine, the Hood County fire marshal.

Fine said four other homes were threatened by the fire, which had been extinguished by evening.

‘We’re in good shape’

South of Glen Rose in southern Somervell and northern Bosque counties, a wildfire had spread to more than 6,500 acres by Friday evening, Webb said.

About 100 residences were evacuated, and as many as 250 homes were threatened.

As of 8 p.m., the fire, called the Big Trickle Ranch fire by the forest service, was reported to be 35 percent contained but was expected to burn through the night.

The cause had not been determined.

In Wise County, all available volunteer firefighters battled fires Friday afternoon, the most significant one near Rhome, officials said.

“That was a hell of a fire,” said Wise County Deputy Sheriff Doug Whitehead. “You could see those fire tornadoes build up. They were thick and a story tall.”

At one point the fire threatened residences in a subdivision near Chisholm Trail Middle School just south of Rhome, near U.S. 287 and Farm Road 3433. Whitehead estimated the fire burned 200 to 300 acres.

“We’re in good shape,” Whitehead said. “We lost no structures. Firefighters contained the fire well.”

Conditions improving

After finishing with the fire in Wise County, many of the volunteers headed to Jacksboro, a town of about 4,500 about 60 miles northwest of Fort Worth.

Brandy Daniel, a waitress at the Green Frog restaurant in Jacksboro, said the fire had not made its way into town, but two customers, along with the staff, were watching and waiting.

“There goes the Windthorst Fire Department,” Daniel said in a telephone interview, watching as a firetruck raced by. “We have smoke all over us. They said the winds are gusting up to 50 mph.”

Jimmy Scarber, an employee at Jacksboro Feed Mill on U.S. 380 West, said the fire raced through the Synterra Estates development.

“They’ve been evacuating some people over by the rodeo grounds, where the fire is at,” he said.

The Jack County fire started near Farm Road 4 when some electrical wires caught fire, Jack County Sheriff’s Lt. J.D. Ezell said.

At 9 p.m., the fire was 60 percent contained and had stopped moving, Hammetter said.

Conditions should improveSaturday, Webb said.

“Winds are shifting to the southeast and will pull some Gulf moisture into the area,” he said. “That should give us a chance to wrap up everything that’s gone on today. We’re not expecting anywhere near the problems we had today.”

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