Texas wildfires destroy homes, buildings

Grass fire destroys 34 homes, displaces residents in Midland County

10 April 2011

published by www.mywesttexas.com

USA — Firefighters worked into the early morning hours Sunday to contain a fire in southern Midland County that officials said scorched nearly 17,000 acres of land.

The blaze, which happened between Farm-to-Market Road 1788 and Midkiff Road south of Interstate 20, destroyed 34 homes, according to the Texas Forest Service. Forestry planes observed that the fire’s perimeter was about 37.6 square miles.

“I was shocked at the amount of area that it was,” said Midland County Fire Marshal Dale Little.

The fire crossed FM 1788 multiple times because of high winds and changing wind directions, Midland Fire Department Operations Chief Fritz Niggeler said Saturday night in a telephone interview with the Reporter-Telegram. Firefighters were able to contain the fire early Sunday morning, and hundreds of residents who had been evacuated were allowed to return to their homes.

Five firefighting units worked for seven hours Sunday to extinguish hot spots, according to Battalion Chief Vince Hancock.

“The winds stayed low for us today, and so we were able to make good progress and extinguish all the spot fires,” he said Sunday evening. Hancock also said Oncor employees were working to replace fallen power lines and poles. Oncor officials asked Midlanders to continue to exercise caution around fallen poles and downed wires.

Though regional American Red Cross officials said they believe that about 150 people were displaced because of the fire, only 24 evacuees registered and were staying at the makeshift shelter at Chaparral Center Saturday night.

The shelter remained open Sunday night with 100 available cots and expected to receive six to 10 people, all of whom had lost their homes in the flames, according to James Parks, director of emergency services for the regional Red Cross.

“It’s a difficult time for everyone here in Midland County,” Parks said. “Typically, West Texans band together, and we’ve had an outpouring of support.”

Midlanders donated water, sports drinks, food and bedding for displaced residents — plenty of donations for the time-being, according to Nancy Olaughlin, who was the captain of the case-worker volunteers.

“Midland just stepped in — even the businesses. They were wonderful,” Olaughlin said. Local restaurants like Texas Roadhouse and Papa John’s stepped in along with Mid-Cities Community Church to provide meals for the evacuees.

Parks said that though the shelter has enough items to give to displaced residents, the Red Cross is constantly in need of volunteers and monetary donations to help with the added volume of people needing assistance.

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