Parker County Grass Fire Prompts Evacuations, Closes Major Highways

Interstates reopen Monday after heavy smoke forces closure of I-20, I-30 west of Loop 820

A massive grass fire in Parker County burned approximately 2,000 acres Monday, shutting down two interstates and lifting a plume of smoke into the air that was visible more than 60 miles away.

Parker County Fire Marshal George Teague said the fire, dubbed the Farmers Road Fire, was approximately 95 percent contained Monday afternoon. At about 4:45 p.m., the Texas A&M Forest Service said that the forward progress of the fire had been halted and that crews were continuing to improve containment lines.

The fire, which Teague said was started by an electrical short, burned an area along Interstate 20 near Walsh Ranch Parkway, west of the Interstate 30 and I-20 merge.

Blinding smoke poured over the highway, forcing officials to close both directions of the highway between Loop 820 and Farm-to-Market Road 5 for several hours; the highways reopened at about 5 p.m. The smoke plume was so large it was visible on satellite imagery released by The National Weather Service Fort Worth.

Several families have been forced out of their homes as wildfires continue to burn nearby in Parker County.

The fire threatened a new housing development at Walsh Ranch and two nearby elementary schools, Walsh and McCall, all of which were evacuated.  At the housing development, only about a dozen of the 150 or so constructed homes were occupied.

"We’ve evacuated the development. We’ve evacuated the school, evacuated all of our personnel and hopefully it's just going to move out and die and it won’t jump I-30, which is the big concern now," said Howard Walsh III, with Walsh Development. “We do what we can to manage these fires with fire breaks and whatnot, but when you’ve got these kinds of winds and these conditions you’re really at Mother Nature’s mercy."

North Texas Wildfires - Jan. 22, 2018

Into the afternoon firefighters were staged along the edges of the fire, working to contain it -- though they're counting on some assistance from roads and highways to act as fire break.

Meanwhile, ranchers were seen in the area wrangling a herd of cattle, directing them away from the fire to safety.

No injuries were reported and there were no reports of property damage from the Farmers Road Fire.

More Fires Form Near Weatherford, Poolville

A second fire in Parker County burned about 20 acres Monday near Weatherford between the Bankhead Highway and U.S. Highway 180.

Several people could be seen outside the Texas Pythian Home for children using tractors to try to stop the fire from spreading. A number of small structures, sheds and open outdoor storage areas, were destroyed by the fire but no homes suffered any damage.

About a dozen homes in a new housing development near Interstate 30 in Parker County were evacuated, along with an elementary school, as a large wildfire continued to burn.

A third fire in Parker County between Springtown and Poolville threatened structures to the south and east of Texas Highway 199 where evactuations were being ordered.

The Wise County Sheriff's Department confirms a number of small fires were burning near Poolville, near county roads 3657 and 3673.

NWS Issues Red Flag, Fire Warnings

Due to low humidity and gusty winds The National Weather Service issued a Red Flag Warning in effect until 6 p.m. Monday for a number of North Texas counties including Tarrant, Dallas and Parker. See a complete list here.

The NWS issued a separate Fire Warning for Parker County Monday afternoon at the request of Emergency Management.

NBC 5 Meteorologist Rick Mitchell said the gusting winds were not expected to let up until sundown, after which the fire danger would diminish.

A massive grass fire in Parker County forced the closure of Interstates 20 and 30 and the evacuation of two schools while lifting a plume of smoke into the air that was visible more than 60 miles away.

Check back and refresh this page for the latest update. As this story is developing, elements may change. NBC 5's Kevin Cokely and Brian James contributed to this report.

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