High Winds Fuel Wildfires

Firefighters battle wind-swept flames

High winds created a challenge for firefighters battling wildfires that burned Thursday in several North Texas counties.

The fierce winds prompted a National Weather Service advisory and a red flag warning.

A 25,000-acre fire was still burning in Montague County late Thursday night. Residents of St. Jo and parts of Bowie were evacuated to Muenster.

An elementary school in Bowie was evacuated on Thursday, and at one point, there were as many as 10 fires raging throughout Montague County, Judge Ted Winn said.

Lewis Kearney, of the Texas Fire Service, said the town of Stoneburg had burned over. The fire had jumped over S 281 at one time. Some fire resources from the Dallas-Fort Worth area had been dispatched to Montague County, he said.

He said all of the fires had stretched the Texas Forest Service "really thin" on Thursday.

One of the biggest fire battles took place in Parker County, where rapidly moving flames sent smoke as far east as Fort Worth.

Numerous agencies responded after the fire started at about 2 p.m. and then spread to roughly 50 to 100 acres. The blaze was centered in the Hudson Oaks area just east of Weatherford. Thick smoke and rough terrain made fighting the blaze difficult, said Weatherford Fire Marshal Bob Hopkins.

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Shortly before 6 p.m., the fire was reported to be about contained. No evacuations were ordered, and the damage was limited to one shed and one small boat. One minor injury was reported by a citizen who had attempted to help extinguish the fire.

The fire most likely originated from arcing wires on the roadside of North Oakridge Drive due to high winds, fire officials said.

Other fires raged in Young County, Wise County and Palo Pinto County.

Residents were evacuated from the small town of Boonsville in Wise County. There were no injuries reported. The Salvation Army dispatched a mobile disaster vehicle to Decatur to provide food and drink to firefighters battling wildfires in the county. 

High winds and tinder conditions also fueled an 8,000-acre wildfire in Wilbarger County that ignited several businesses and forced evacuation of schools in Montague and Callahan counties.

Several businesses were burning in an area about four miles west of Electra in Wilbarger County, Texas Forest Service spokesman Bill Beebe said.

In Callahan County, officials ordered students at an intermediate school and a high school in Clyde to evacuate, a sheriff's department dispatcher said.

The Tarrant County Public Health department warned residents to take precautions due to the elevated levels of smoke in the air from the fires. Children, the elderly, pregnant woman and people with heart problems, allergies, asthma, emphysema, or other respiratory conditions were asked to stay indoors and limit outdoor activities.

More than 93 percent of Texas was in some stage of drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor map released Thursday.

The following is a 6:30 p.m. update on the Texas fires from Texas A&M University:

April 9, 2009 (Information current as of 18:00)

Young Co. – Rocky Mound Fire reported to Texas Forest Service at 05:00 this morning, location N33 10.063 W98 28.759.  Bulldozers and engines were dispatched at 05:00, Air Attack and investigators have been requested.  Three homes and one structure were saved while one home was lost.  Approximately 45 acres have burned.  Fire is 75% contained.

Wichita Co. – Electra West Fire reported to Texas Forest Service at 12:35, location N34 02.118.9 W98 56.37.2.  This fire has burned into the community of Electra.  This fire is estimated to have burned 4,500 to 5,000 acres.  Two large commercial buildings have been lost.  This fire has resulted in the evacuation of 800 homes including 30 people from a nursing home.  Shelters are set up at the Junior High School.  The High School is being used as a rehab center for fire fighters.  The fire is estimated to be 25% contained.

Stephens Co. Breckenridge Fire (called Convenience Store Fire by local VFD’s).  Reported to Texas Forest Service at 12:35, fire is located near the town of Breckenridge having burned around it to the north.  An apartment complex is threatened and evacuations are in process.  Texas Forest Service has committed a task force and supervisors.  This fire is estimated to have burned 3, 000 acres and is 20% contained.

Jones Co. – Carriker Fire reported to Texas Forest Service at 11:52, location N32 33.70 W 100 06.62.   The fire is reported to be 50 acres in size and is 70% contained..  Two homes are threatened.  Texas Forest Service committed a task force and supervisors all of which have been released.

Cooke Co. – Bluff Fire reported to Texas Forest Service at 12:33, location N 33 43.800 W 97 28.224.  The fire is reported to be about 15 acres burning in rough terrain near the Cooke and Montague County line.  Bulldozers from the Texas Forest Service are in route.  This fire is about 50% contained.

Brown Co. – Grosvenor Fire.  Texas Forest Service has dispatched a task force and supervisors to this fire that is located off FM585 at CR 110 north of Bangs.  There are several structures threatened.  This fire is estimated at over 100 acres and is about 5% contained.  One structure has been confirmed lost and an additional 35 are threatened.

Young Co. – Cement Mountain Fire.   Texas Forest Service has dispatched task forces and supervisors to this fire which is located off Cement Mountain Road off US380.  This fire has burned over 100 acres and has resulted in the evacuation of 100 homes.  This fire has crossed over into Jack County and is threatening sub-divisions around Bryson.

Archer Co. – Two Mile Hill Fire.  Texas Forest Service has dispatched bulldozers from Georgia to this fire.  This fire is approximately 2,000 acres in size and is located between Archer City and Lake City off SH79 at Coleman Road.  Approximate location is N33 42.627 x W98 36.355.  Three homes have been lost on this fire.

Hamilton Co. – 617 Fire. This fire was reported to the Texas Forest Service at 16:49 today.  It is approximately 250 acres in size and is burning in grass and juniper.  About 150 homes and the City of Hamilton are threatened.  Evacuations are in effect on CR 2486.  Texas Forest Service has dispatched an engine to this fire.

San Saba Co. –Cook II CT#52 Fire.  This fire was reported to the Texas Forest Service at 16:35 today.  It is located at N30 78.7 W98 52.63 west of Cherokee.  This fire has burned about 200 acres and is threatening six homes and twelve outbuildings.  Texas Forest Service air attack and a helicopter are on this fire.

Archer Co. – ARCHER COUNTY FIRES (not named).  Two fires reported by local VFD’s to be 2,000 each are burning east of Archer City about five miles north of state highway 25.  The Texas Forest Service has dispatched bulldozers to these two fires.   Locals report that three structures have been lost.


Callahan Co. – Steel Fire is holding at 50 acres and is 90% contained.  Locals are staffing the fire today, all Texas Forest Service resources have been released.  There were 200 homes and multiple outbuildings saved while three motor homes, 3 travel trailers and 4 outbuildings lost.

Wheeler Co. – Magic City Fire is being reported at 17,000 acres today (an increase over previous reports due to improved mapping).  It is 99% contained and is being monitored by local VFD units today.

Young Co. – Phillips II Fire is 25 acres and is still active although it is 75% contained.  High winds have caused ten spots to cross containment lines; however our firefighters have succeeded in catching all of them so far.  Bulldozers constructed two contingency lines that can be used to contain the fire should it escape the existing containment line.


The Texas Forest Service Incident Management Team is setting up a staging area in Decatur to facilitate distribution of fire fighting resources to the fires.  Dallas/Ft. Worth Fire Departments are sending 40 Type 6 Engines, 8 Type 1 Engines and 8 Water Tenders to this staging area.

Aerial resources which have been grounded all day due to high winds are finally able to be deployed as the winds die down this afternoon.  This will be a real aide to the fire fighters on the ground.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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