USA –The Texas Forest Service is reporting that law enforcement officials have begun the evacuation of 30 homes, 2 hotels and a shopping center that were threatened by the Nolan County Complex of fires burning near Sweetwater.
“The whole southeast side of Sweetwater is threatened, about 100 to 200 homes,” said TFS spokesman Paul Ries. Ries said the fire was now estimated to have burned 1,200 acres, up from the previous estimate of 500 acres.
An official with the Nolan County Sheriff’s Office said that Interstate 20 was temporarily closed between the Highway 70 interchange and mile marker 247, but the roadway had been reopened.
PREVIOUSLY: Two wildfires that broke out early this afternoon near Lake Sweetwater and have now joined into one large fire, which is south of Sweetwater in Nolan County. The wildfire has burned around 500 acres and threatens 15 structures.
UPDATE 5:30 p.m.: Department of Public Safety troopers are going door-to-door in an area between County Road 220 and Interstate 20 alerting residents about the possibility of evacuation.
Brad Britten, regional fire coordinator for Texas Forest Service, said it was just a precautionary measure.
“No evacuation was needed at this time, but if an evacuation was ordered, people wouldn’t have much time to gather belongings and leave, giving them a heads up,” Britten said.
Meanwhile, preparations are under way to close Interstate 20 about two miles east of Sweetwater as Texas Forest Service officials expect the fire to jump the roadway if winds keep blowing smoke in that direction.
Department of Public Safety trooper Sparky Dean in a 5 p.m. announcement advised travelers to prepare for delays and possible re-routing of traffic.
The Sweetwater Fire Department and seven other volunteer fire departments were on the scene. The Texas Forest Service also sent resources, said Paul Ries, Forest Service spokesman.
UPDATE: The smoke column, which is visible from downtown Abilene, is thick and dark in color, according to a reporter on the way to the scene.