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Cool weather, calm winds could help fight Texas wildfires

September 1, 2011 |  1:02 pm

Texas Wildfire

North Texas fire officials were hopeful Thursday that forthcoming cool weather and calm winds would assist firefighters in suppressing the largest of several wildfires currently burning in the state -- a blaze that has destroyed 39 homes in three days.

The fire has charred more than 6,200 acres of bone-dry vegetation in Palo Pinto County, forcing hundreds of evacuations and threatening as many as 400 homes since it began Tuesday.

The fire has been fueled by strong winds and the relentlessly high temperatures that have plagued the drought-stricken state.

Firefighters were able to make some progress overnight as the fire burned into flatter ground and became easier to contain, said John Nichols, a spokesman for the multi-agency effort fighting the blaze, known as the 101 Ranch fire.

The fire is now 50% contained, he told The Times.

The fire is burning near Possum Kingdom Lake, about 75 miles west of Fort Worth, where a fire in spring destroyed more than 160 homes, Nichols said.

Across the state, firefighters were battling 14 wildfires that have burned nearly 20,900 acres, said April Saginor, a spokeswoman for the Texas Forest Service, in an interview with The Times.

The current fires are the latest round for beleaguered fire crews. All year, they've been facing conditions wrought by the state's worst drought in nearly a century, plus unusually high temperatures and strong winds, Saginor said.

Since January, more than 18,000 wildfires have broken out across Texas, charring about 3.4 million acres and destroying 660 homes.

Conditions have been so ripe for fires that even when rain does fall, it has little effect, Saginor said.

“We’re not getting any moisture here,” she said. “We’re getting nothing from these little tropical storms that are hitting us.”

In nearby Oklahoma, firefighters on Thursday continued fighting a wildfire in northeast Oklahoma City that had destroyed more than 30 homes and burned about 18 square miles.

The fire forced hundreds of evacuations in a rural area of the city, said Deputy Chief Marc Woodard of the Oklahoma City Fire Department.

High winds have whipped up flames, causing spot fires across the parched land, Woodard said.

“I can't tell you the last time we got rain,” he told The Times.

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--Stephen Ceasar

Photo: A wildfire roars through dry trees near Possum Kingdom Lake in Texas. Credit: LM Otero / Associated Press 

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