Fires Burn Hundreds of Thousands of Acres
By SHEILA FLYNN, Associated Press Writer
RINGGOLD, Texas - Firefighters faced windier, warmer weather Tuesday
as they battled fast-moving blazes that have virtually destroyed some
small towns and charred hundreds of thousands of acres of
drought-stricken Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico.
Since Dec. 27, flames racing across grassland and farmland have
destroyed more than 250 buildings. Four deaths were reported last week
in Texas and Oklahoma.
On Monday, authorities went house to house in a search for victims in
burned-out Texas towns including Ringgold. A weekend blaze destroyed
most of the ranch-and-cattle community of about 100 people near the
Oklahoma line. Fifty other homes and 40,000 acres were torched as
wind swept the fire 13 miles from Ringgold to Nocona.
Coylee Grimsley and her two sons watched their home burn just hours
after she had cooked a large meal to celebrate the new year.
"We was enjoying it, and here come the flames," she said. "If you'd
been there, you'd have thought the world was going to end."
One of two major fires near San Angelo in West Texas -- a 40,000-acre
blaze in Sterling County -- had been contained, authorities said.
Fifteen structures were destroyed and two people suffered minor injuries.
The other major blaze in the San Angelo area, a 50,000-acre fire with
a 50-mile perimeter in nearby Irion and Reagan counties, was about 70
percent contained Tuesday. No damages or evacuations were reported.
A 35,000-acre blaze near the small towns of Carbon, Gorman and
Desdemona had been beaten back by late Monday to just a few hundred
acres of mostly open ranch land, said Mark Pipkin of the Eastland Fire
All major wildfires in Oklahoma were declared under control late
Monday thanks to calmer wind and higher humidity, but crews were
preparing for the worst. Highs up to 80 were possible Tuesday with
only 10 to 20 percent humidity and wind up to 25 mph, the National
Weather Service said.
"We will make sure that all the hot spots and smoldering areas are put
out for the simple fact that if the wind picks up, we'll be in
trouble," said Dan Ware, spokesman for New Mexico's state Forestry
The weather service issued a "red flag warning" for Texas on Tuesday
because of the expected heat, low humidity and wind.
Computer models showed no rain soon, said Jesse Moore, a National
Weather Service meteorologist in Fort Worth. He said the region's last
appreciable rain was about a quarter-inch on Dec. 20. Oklahoma is more
than a foot behind its normal rainfall of about 36 inches for this
time of year.
"We're not out of danger yet," said Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry. "We
can't let our guard down. All the fires were put out on Monday, but
Tuesday is likely to find some sparks ready to flare up again."
Since the rash of wildfires began in Texas, more than 200,000 acres of
land has been charred, 250 homes destroyed and three people killed,
the Texas Forest Service says.
Four fires in southeastern New Mexico had blackened more than 53,000
acres of grassland and burned 11 houses and two businesses near Hobbs.
The flames forced the evacuation of 200 to 300 people on the city's
fringe -- including about 170 from two Hobbs nursing homes. All but
about 50 had returned home by midday Monday, authorities said.
Since Nov. 1, Oklahoma wildfires have covered more than 331,000 acres
and destroyed 220 homes and businesses, said Albert Ashwood,
Oklahoma's emergency management director. One person was killed and a
few persons injured, but none severely..
With his grandparents' Oklahoma City home in smoldering ruins,
10-year-old Cameron Batson found something to be thankful for: He
pointed out the basketball goal in the driveway that remained intact
after the three-level brick home was turned into ashen rubble.
"We had some good times here," the boy said Monday, his voice cracking
with emotion. "It was a pretty house."
Associated Press writers Angela K. Brown in Kokomo, Texas, and Sean Murphy
in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.
Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.
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