Wednesday, December 28, 2005
AP: Grassfires evacuate Cross Plains
By SHEILA FLYNN, Associated Press Writer - 10 minutes ago
CROSS PLAINS, Texas - Rancher Dean Dillard was able to save his 72-year-old mother's home from grass fires by soaking the land around it. But many of his neighbors weren't as lucky.
Wildfires that raced through Texas and Oklahoma Tuesday devoured scores of homes, including at least 25 in rural Cross Plains. The fires, fueled by gusty winds and a drought, were blamed for at least one death and a handful of injuries.
"It looked like we had been bombed in a big war, the whole city was on fire everywhere," said Dillard.
Early Wednesday, thick smoke still hung over the town, located about 150 miles southwest of Dallas. Roads remained blocked after the fires forced the town's 1,000 residents to evacuate.
Drought and windy conditions help set the stage for the fires, which authorities believe were mainly set by people ignoring fire bans and burning trash, shooting fireworks or tossing cigarettes on the crunchy, brown grass.
Texas Forest Service spokeswoman Traci Weaver called the wildfires the state's worst since February 1996, when 141 structures and 16,000 acres were destroyed around Poolville, about 40 miles northwest of Fort Worth.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, left, deployed state firefighters and issued a disaster declaration after at least 73 fires were reported burning in the northern and central parts of the state. Firefighters from at least three other states were called in to help.
In Cooke County, near the Texas-Oklahoma border, an elderly woman was killed, Traci Weaver said. No details were available.
The flames were so bad in Cross Plains that firefighters couldn't fight all the blazes at once. Dillard, a former city councilman, spent the day fighting fires with neighbors.
"Houses are just burned down that nobody could ever get to," Dillard said. "Instantly, there were 15 or 20 houses on fire at same time and no way to get around to all of them."
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