Texas Wildfires: Cooler Weather Helps Firefighters Battling Blaze

Texas wildfires burned over a million acres since January.

ByABC News
April 21, 2011, 7:17 AM

April 21, 2011 — -- Firefighters battling Texas wildfires are getting a reprieve with light rain and colder weather moving into the region.

Overnight rain fell in the area surrounding Possum King Lake where 160 homes and 150,000 acres have burned. The Possum King Complex where the fires continue to rage is 70 miles from Fort Worth.

More than 340 people, including volunteer firefighters, federal agencies and the Texas Army National Guard, are working to put out the flames.

One community, called "Hell's Gate," is charred and smoldering. The flames came right up to Bob McCormick's home. Now, he has no neighbors.

"It's tough to sit here and watch your friend's place go up in smoke and not know whether it's there or not there," McCormick said.

Firefighters have been battling the massive Possum Kingdom fire since last Friday. Chief Ronnie Ranft leads the Possum Kingdom Fire Department, a group of 25 volunteer firefighters. He said he and his crew are "dead tired." Most haven't slept more than four hours a night in a week.

Since January, 1.4 million acres in Texas have burned. That's equivalent to the size of Rhode Island.

"The last six months have been the driest on record since the early 1900s," Lt. Kenny Phillips said.

One firefighter died yesterday from injuries sustained earlier this month while battling a blaze in the Texas Panhandle. He was the second firefighter to die battling the wildfires.

On Tuesday, authorities began enforcing evacuation orders in Palo Pinto, 50 miles west of the Dallas-Ft. Worth metro area.

"They told us to get the heck out," Palo Pinto resident Coleman Price told ABC News Austin affiliate KVUE. Price spent his last few hours in town packing up family belongings such as files and clothes.

Prisoners at the Palo Pinto County Jail were transferred out of the area to safety.

Some area resident left cars, trucks and trailers in open fields in the hopes that they might be spared from the coming blaze. Others decided to try to tough it out against government orders to try to defend their homesteads. Marty Jones and her husband have decided to stay, but they are apprehensive. "It's never been this close before, I'm scared," she told KVUE.