Brush Fire Forcing Evacuations Near Possum Kingdom Lake

Brush Fire Forcing Evacuations Near Possum Kingdom Lake

30 August 2011

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USA — An out-of-control brush fire is growing near Possum Kingdom Lake and forcing the evacuation of hundreds of homes.

The wildfire, made up of mostly brush and cedar, is burning to the northwest in an area north of U.S. 180 on both sides of State Highway 16 just south of the lake. The Texas Forest Service said Tuesday night the fire had grown to an estimated 7,500 acres.

“Unfortunately, there are about 20, 25 structures that have been lost,” John Nichols of the Texas Forest Service said. “There are another 125 structures that are being threatened.”

The fire is 0 percent contained and has been known to jump across roadways.

At least 20 homes in The Cliffs, an area of lakefront homes, were destroyed by the fire. The Cliffs was one of the few areas not hit during the wildfires that burned large portions of the Possum Kingdom Lake area in April.

“The fire itself is pretty much out of control,” Palo Pinto County Sheriff Ira Mercer said Tuesday afternoon. “This fire is not something that you can battle from the ground. The flames are jumping 150 feet in the air. It’s not something you can put personnel in on.”

Seven departments are working to contain the wildfire, and several aircraft assisting in the fight, including two heavy helicopters, two air-based coordinators and six single-engine air tankers.

Tom Berglund of the Texas Forest Service said the vegetation is so dry that it burns explosively.

Officials have closed SH16 from 180 to Farm-to-Market Road 2353. Homes in the Garland Bend neighborhood, The Cliffs and the marina are all being evacuated. April Saginor of the Texas Forest Service said the town of Brad is also threatened by the brush fire.

Mercer said authorities are evaluating Gaines Bend and Sportsman’s World to determine if they need to be evacuated.

No major injuries have been reported. There was a report earlier Tuesday about a person with minor burns, but Mercer said he did not know of any injuries.

Temperatures in the area reached 106 degrees on Tuesday afternoon with winds gusting up to 28 mph, said National Weather Service meteorologist Jason Dunn. By nightfall, gusts were at about 20 mph and the temperature was around 99.

Some cloud cover expected to move in overnight could help keep the winds around 10 mph, though winds as strong as 20 mph and were expected by afternoon, Dunn said. Temperatures could reach 103 degrees on Wednesday.

“When you get just a little bit of wind in these dry conditions, it just doesn’t take anything to get a fire started,” Nichols said.

In April, a massive wildfire burned about 125,000 acres in the Possum Kingdom Lake area and destroyed some 160 homes and two churches.

Barbara Wright evacuated for the second time this year because of Tuesday’s fire.

“God took care of us the last time. He’ll do it again,” she said. “It’s been very sad, but we’ll rebuild.”

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