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Dozens of homes destroyed by wildfires in Texas, Oklahoma

August 31, 2011 |  8:57 am

Wildfire_in_Texas
Wildfires raging in parts of Texas and Oklahoma have displaced hundreds of residents, destroyed several dozen homes and threaten many more -- and officials say the region's unbearably hot, dry weather is only making it worse.

The heat, the bone-dry brush, low humidity and gusty winds are creating perfect conditions for the fires that were gaining speed late Tuesday. Fire authorities in both states said they were waiting until Wednesday to get a better assessment of the situation.

"Right now, they have established an anchor point at the heel of the fire," Tom Berglund, a spokesman for the Texas Forest Service, told The Times. "From there, they are going to be able to move up the edges of the fire and try to corral it."

He said the enemy at this point is the weather. "It's going to be hot and dry and windy," he said, adding that winds were gusting up to 15 mph. The area is studded with thick cedar and juniper trees that have been sucked dry by months of relentless heat and sun. As a result, he said, "they are just burning explosively."

Authorities do not yet know what caused the fires.



The North Texas fires have so far engulfed more than 3,500 acres, including land that already burned during a devastating spring fire that claimed more than 160 homes. The current fire has destroyed at least 20 homes, and the flames are threatening more than 125 homes in the Possum Kingdom Lake area about 75 miles west of Fort Worth. Hundreds of people have been evacuated from the area, Berglund said.

In Oklahoma, the fires were closer to being controlled. Fire and emergency officials reported that the fire destroyed about 12 homes, a church and an estimated 1,500 acres in the northeastern part of the city. Several hundred homes were evacuated and more than 7,000 homes and businesses were without power. 

The dry weather was a problem there as well, setting cedar trees ablaze and causing utility poles to light up "like matchsticks," according to one report.

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-- Rene Lynch
On Twitter @renelynch

Photo: A helicopter drops water on a fire near Possum Kingdom Lake, Texas. Credit: Robby Ferguson / Fort Worth Star-Telegram

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