Worst Wildfire In History

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Monday, April 18, 2011 - 1:53pm

Tens of thousands of acres ablaze in Texas.

Tens of thousands of acres in Stephens and Palo Pinto counties are on fire in the worst wildfire season in Texas history.

Governor Rick Perry is asking President Barack Obama for federal disaster assistance for 252 out of the state's 254 counties.

The Texas Forest Service said four fires are burning near and to the south of Possum Kingdom Lake.

Law enforcement officials went door-to-door Sunday, notifying residents of a mandatory evacuation order that was lifted later Sunday.

All roads leading into the town of Strawn were closed at 2:15 p.m.

Many evacuated residents went to the neighboring town of Gordon, about eight miles east of Strawn. The town of Gordon opened up a school for evacuees.

The three fires, the Possum Kingdom West Fire, the Hohertz fire and the Possum Kingdom East Fire, combined into what the Texas Forest Service called a "fire complex" that has burned more than 55,000 acres as of Sunday night and counting.

An Incident Command Post was established along Highway 16 in Strawn, less than two miles from the looming fire.

"If the wind should shift and change direction, it could be in town in a matter of minutes," said David Nicklas, Palo Pinto County Judge.

"We are ready to pack up and move now, and we can be out of here in literally minutes," said Trooper Dubb Gillium Department of Public Safety Highway Patrol spokesman.

More than 60 agencies are helping contain the fire.

The Texas Forest Service committed two air attacks, three heavy helitankers, two Blackhawk helicopters, three 20-person hand crews, three task forces of dozers and engines and more.

Dozens of volunteer fire departments have been fighting the fire nonstop for days.

A rancher who wanted to remain anonymous used a borrowed water truck to spray various parts of his 11,000-acre ranch.

A large part of his ranch was charred, but his efforts helped some.

"We've been able to keep some of it from spreading and prevent it from going to other pastures," he said.

The evacuation order for Strawn residents were eventually lifted, but it remains to be seen when firefighters will get a grip on the blaze.

"We don't know," Gilliam said. "It depends on Mother Nature -- is she going to help us or is she going to hurt us with the winds and the humidity? And we've got firefighters that are obviously exhausted. They've been out here for days fighting it."
 

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