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Feds Join Battle Against Possum Kingdom Wildfire

Wildfires burn out of control near Possum Kingdom Lake in this image from last Friday. The blaze has already destroyed more than 100 homes.
Photo by Texas Military Forces
Wildfires burn out of control near Possum Kingdom Lake in this image from last Friday. The blaze has already destroyed more than 100 homes.

More than 600 homes are threatened in an area around Possum Kingdom Lake, about an hour west of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, after four wildfires merged into one. The blaze has already destroyed at least 117 homes, according to the Texas Fire Service, and the Possum Kingdom State Park has been closed.

Cooler temperatures, more humid air, and lighter winds have helped firefighters in the battle against a wildfire that has already scorched more than 200 square miles. But the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that reprieve may be short-lived.

As the latest cool front moves north into Oklahoma, warmer air is expected to move back into the area as the winds shift from the northeast back to the south and southeast, [National Weather Service meteorologist Daniel] Huckaby said. Temperatures should climb back into the 80s and 90s in coming days, but more moisture should lower the threat of the wildfires spreading quickly, he said.

Meanwhile, federal firefighters and officials from other US agencies have arrived to help extinguish the wildfire by Possum Kingdom Lake, which the Texas Forest Service has dubbed the PK Complex fire.  The Dallas Morning News saysit's only the second time the feds have got involved in combating the wildfires that have plagued Texas as it trudges through its worst drought in 50 years.

Personnel from more than a half-dozen federal agencies — including the Forest Service, the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management — have been working to deal with fires in West Texas covering portions of 36 counties for more than a week, said Bridget Litten, a spokeswoman for that team.

Here's the latest wildfires report from the Texas Forest Service, issued around 9 o'clock this morning:

Recent response: ·         Yesterday (Tuesday, April 19), Texas Forest Service responded to 10 new fires burning 2,184 acres. ·         Since Jan. 1, TFS has responded to 810 fires that have burned 1.4 million acres. More than 5,570 structures have been saved; 370 structures have been lost this year.  ·         The McPherson Fire in Sutton County has been contained at 2,300 acres. ·         The state now has four Incident Management Teams engaged in managing wildfire response; the Lone Star State IMT (Merkel), the Southern Area Blue Team (Midland), the Southern Area Red Team (Mineral Wells) and the Florida Red Team (Lufkin). ·         TFS has every heavy airtanker that is available nationally committed to Texas wildfires. ·         202 of the 254 Texas counties are reporting burn bans.   New large fires from Wednesday: MOSSY ROCK RANCH, Stephens County. 800 acres, 30 percent contained. Located 8.5 miles southwest of Caddo. SOUTHWEST ROYALTY FIRE, Garza County. 2,000 acres, 40 percent contained. 10 homes are threatened. Heavy airtankers and single-engine airtankers assisted on this fire. This fire is 5 miles east of Wilson.   Uncontained fires from previous days: Possom Kingdom COMPLEX, Stephens and Palo Pinto Counties. 147,065 acres total. Possum Kingdom West Fire is 89,715 acres, unknown containment. Possom Kingdom  East Fire is 10,996 acres, 35 percent contained. Hohertz Fire is 40,575 acres, unknown containment. Jackson Ranch Fire is 6,687 acres, 50 percent contained. These fires are burning near Possum Kingdom Lake, Caddo, Strawn, and Bunger which all have had evacuations. 600-plus homes are threatened. PK subdivisions: Sportsman World 56 homes destroyed, Gaines Bend 37 homes destroyed, Hog Bend 24 homes destroyed; additional assessments of Hell’s Gate, Peninsula and Cliff area continue. TFS task forces and Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System (TIFMAS) strike teams are actively fighting these fires. National Guard Blackhawk helicopters from Austin are assisting and heavy airtankers. WILDCAT, Coke County.  150,000 acres, 30 percent contained. This fire is burning north of San Angelo. More than 400 homes have been saved.  The communities of Grape Creek, Quail Valley, Bronte, Robert Lee, Tennyson and Orient are threatened. Evacuations have been in effect for multiple communities. The C-130s w/ MAFFS, heavy airtankers and helicopters have continued to assist, and yesterday the DC-10 Super Tanker made five drops. COOPER MOUNTAIN RANCH, Kent, Stonewall, Scurry and Fisher counties. 162,625 acres, 85 percent contained.  Four homes have been destroyed.  TFS task forces and TIFMAS strike teams have been actively fighting this fire. ROCKHOUSE, Presidio and Jeff Davis counties.  191,066 acres, 75 percent contained.  23 homes and two businesses were destroyed in the Ft. Davis area. Burnout operations continued on the west side of the fire.  Ten 20-person hand crews continue to work the fire.  Eight TIFMAS Type 1 engines and four water haulers are assisting with the fire, as well as numerous airtankers and helicopters.  A base camp for hundreds of firefighters has been set up at the Fort Davis State Park. SWENSON, Stonewall, King, and Knox counties.  122,500 acres, 90 percent contained.  The fire is burning near Swenson. A large slopover occurred yesterday on the southeast side of the fire.  BRYSON COMPLEX, Jack County.  7,500 acres, 60 percent contained.  More than 150 homes were threatened and saved in the town of Bryson.  70 people have been evacuated. The complex is made up of the 5,300-acre 1191/Rockcreek Fire and the 2,200-acre Shanafelt Fire. PIPELINE, Tyler County.  7,000 acres, 75 percent contained.  Forty homes are threatened on the fire burning in pine plantation 10 miles northeast of Kountze.  Two National Guard Blackhawks from San Antonio are assisting. CR 4600 (Woodville 285), Tyler Co. 130 acres, 25 percent contained. Ground resources and helicopters responded. SMITH, Young County.  2,000 acres, 85 percent contained.  The fire is burning 6 miles northeast of Graham. No other information was received. CR 104, Eastland County.  2,000 acres, 85 percent contained.  The fire is burning two miles north of Cisco.  1,850 homes were threatened in the city of Cisco, as well as a church camp. Five homes and one vehicle destroyed. WICHITA COUNTY COMPLEX, Wichita County.  11,785 acres, 90 percent contained.  The complex is made up of three fires – Iowa West, Holiday, Missile – burning around Wichita Falls.  Shepard Air Force Base was threatened, as were hundreds of homes and apartment complexes around the area.  Seven homes are destroyed.  FRYING PAN RANCH, Andrews County.  80,907 acres, 80 percent contained. This fire is located 25 miles WNW of Andrews.  Numerous homes were threatened, but none have been lost. One excavator and one vehicle lost. CANNON FIRE COMPLEX, Pecos County.  The complex of three fires is burning 50 miles east of Fort Stockton.  The Cannon Fire is 9,248 acres and 80 percent contained.  The DRH Fire is 26,284 acres and 80 percent contained. The Little Smokey Fire is 27,895 acres and 80 percent contained. EAST SIDWYNICKS, Eastland County. 3,000 acres, 95 percent contained.  The fire is burning near Carbon City.  1,200 homes were threatened.   SUTTON, Crockett County.  31,120 acres, 60 percent contained.  The fire is burning 20 miles southwest of Ozona.  YATES FIELD (formerly Iraan), Pecos County.  300 acres, 80 percent contained.  The fire is burning 10 miles southwest of Iraan. ENCINO, Tom Green County.  12,659 acres, 90 percent contained.  This fire is 13 miles west of San Angelo.  Ten homes threatened and saved. Two homes were threatened and received damaged. HICKMAN, Midland County.  16,500 acres, 98 percent contained.  34 homes were destroyed, 62 homes were damaged on this fire south of Midland. MIDDLE PEASE, Motley County. 400 acres, 90 percent contained. Single-engine air tankers responded. Located two miles northwest of Matador. DAD’S CORNER, Archer County. 6,100 acres, 70 percent contained. Located 15 miles south southwest of Wichita Falls. Fifteen homes are threatened.   Prevention messages: ·         Obey outdoor burning bans. Don’t burn trash or debris when conditions are dry or windy. Unsafe burning of leaves, brush, household trash and other debris is the No. 1 cause of wildfires in Texas. ·         Keep lawn mowers and agricultural equipment in proper working condition and avoid rocks and other materials which might cause a spark. ·         To report suspicious activities, call the Arson Hotline at (888) 501-3850. If possible, safely obtain an accurate description of the person and/or vehicle (including the license number) before calling the hotline.  ·         Humans cause more than 90 percent of all wildfires. Do not weld or cut without a spotter, a water source and a shovel.

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @KUTnathan.
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