Texas wildfires caused by gusty winds force evacuations

Friday's windswept wildfires destroyed homes and churches in Central Texas, leaving one sheriff's deputy with his body. Firefighters struggled to contain them.

Texas wildfires caused by gusty winds force evacuations

The drought conditions exacerbated the fires, which merged to form what officials called a "complex" near Eastland, approximately 120 miles (195 km) west of Dallas. Many homes were evacuated from smaller communities.

Officials in Eastland County reported Barbara Fenley's death. Sheriff's officials said she was trying to save others from the flames. It is not clear when or how she died. There have been no other reported casualties.

According to Texas A&M Forest Service, the fires had burned approximately 70.9 miles (184 km) by Friday afternoon. The fires were only 4% contained, and they were still burning in thick brush and grasslands.

Eastland County is home to approximately 18,000 residents. According to Matthew Ford, spokesperson for Texas A&M Forest Service, approximately 475 homes were evacuated from Gorman. Officials don't know how many structures might have caught fire.

Ford stated Friday morning that "until we get more boots on ground, we don’t have an estimation" of the numbers. "Life, safety and protection for structures are our top priorities."

However, Gov. Greg Abbott stated that at least 50 homes were on fire as of Friday afternoon. He said that more destruction could be found, at an afternoon briefing.

The forest service warned that parts of Oklahoma and Kansas could be affected by the "rare, highly impact wildfire phenomenon". According to Nebraska's forest service, most Nebraskans will spend the weekend at extreme fire risk due to drought conditions.

Many months of dry and windy weather has sparked deadly wildfires in Kansasand Oklahoma. One was even lit a few weeks back. A large wildfire in remote western Nebraska ranching country has been burning for several weeks. Meteorologists expressed optimism that the risk would be reduced by rain showers, which are expected to fall across the Plains early next week.

Robb Lawson is a National Weather Service meteorologist based in Wichita. He said, "We've been so dried that even an inch rain would make all the difference."

In other parts of Texas, smaller fires were already burning. Thursday's high humidity and strong winds made it easy for the blazes grow rapidly out of control. The forecast had prompted the Texas A&M Forest Service to warn of a wildfire epidemic this week.

Eastland County Today reported that residents of Rising Star's nursing home were evacuated and taken to a nearby community center.

Friday's warning by the National Weather Service in Fort Worth was that gusty winds and drought conditions could increase fire danger in central and western Texas. Residents were urged to verify whether there are any local burn bans in place and be cautious with anything that could cause a grass fire.

Madison Gordon, National Weather Service meteorologist, stated that "we had a dry summer last year" and that it continued into fall and winter. "We now have lots of fuel in the fields" after winter has passed.

The flames that engulfed the 103 year-old Baptist church in Ranger, Texas, were a cause for concern. It was located about 85 miles (140 km) west of Fort Worth. According to Dallas TV station WFAA, the police department and other historical buildings were also destroyed.

Roy Rodgers, Second Baptist Church's deacon, stated that the third floor and roof of Second Baptist Church collapsed, while the remainder of the building suffered extensive smoke damage and water damage. Rodgers stated that the church will hold its next Sunday service in the parking lot across from the church, where the congregation can decide what to do.

Rodgers, who has been a member of the church since 1969, said that it was heartbreaking. "A lot people are taking this very hard because many people have ties with the church.

Ranger Fire Department Chief Darrell Fox suggested that the fire may have been started by a barbecue pit.

Fox stated that Fox had all the necessary equipment in place for the event. Fox said, "But when the winds blow like crazy... and the humidity is at its lowest point, this is what we're going to get."

The fires created hazy conditions hundreds of kilometres away. On Friday morning, the Houston Fire Department sent automated phone messages to alert residents of the area about smoke and ash.


 

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