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New Texas fires quickly contained, but big blazes still out of control

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Midland wildfire prompts evacuations
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Firefighters were "pretty lucky today," a state spokesman says
  • All six new fires reported Sunday are under control, the Texas Forest Service says
  • Still, several blazes involving more 130,000 acres are uncontrolled
  • The National Weather Services issues "red flag warnings" for parts of six states
RELATED TOPICS
  • Wildfires
  • Texas

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Dallas (CNN) -- Once fearing one of the worst days in the state's history for battling wildfires, Texas firefighters got the upper hand Sunday on several blazes though others remained out of their control.

The six new wildfires reported Sunday, all in different counties, were relatively small and quickly brought under control, the Texas Forest Service said in a statement.

"(Firefighters were) pretty lucky today," said Alan Craft, a spokesman for the state's Lone Star Incident Management Team.

The most damage -- to an unoccupied mobile home, horse trailer and another building -- occurred over an acre in Newton County, but that fire was controlled.

Eleven structures were threatened and one camper was lost over 129 acres in Angelina County, the state agency added.

Still, despite successes in squelching these blazes, authorities were fighting to manage 19 other, appreciably bigger blazes. This challenge, as well as the weather outlook, had prompted the Forest Service to state that "conditions on Sunday could shape up to be among the worst in Texas history."

Gov. Rick Perry renewed a disaster proclamation in effect for all of Texas' 249 counties -- even though major fires are occurring in 13 of them -- to expedite assistance in case of new fires, his office said Sunday in a statement.

In addition to more than 750 personnel working with the Texas Forest Service, the governor's statement noted that two Blackhawk helicopters with the Texas Military Forces, bulldozers from the state transportation department and resources from 60 fire departments statewide were part of the effort. Authorities in the Lone Star state have responded to 6,831 fires over 643,000 acres since wildfire season began.

The biggest fire still not under control was continuing Sunday in 71,000 acres in parts of Stonewall, Knox and King counties. Air resources, bulldozers, fire engines and other tools and personnel were being used in that fight, the Forest Service said.

Another of the hardest slogs may be in Presidio County, where none of the 60,000 imperiled acres was considered to be contained Sunday. The Forest Service has deployed three air tankers, 60 firefighters, bulldozers and other equipment and personnel, in addition to a host of other state and local resources, focused on this blaze.

Already, 30 to 40 homes in Fort Davis have been lost due to this fire, according to the Forest Service.

Another 34 homes have burned in Midland County, due to a fire over 16,500 acres that the state agency on Sunday described as "very active" and not at all contained. A Red Cross shelter has been set up at Midland College for those displaced or otherwise affected by this wildfire.

"(Firefighters) can't outrun it," said Craft.

There have been no evacuations yet related to another 60,000-acre blaze, this one in Potter and Moore counties near the city of Masterson. That fire is 50% contained and is still considered a threat to the towns of Dumas and Sunray.

Texas is not alone, as wildfires are burning in large swaths of the Southwest and Midwest, fanned in part by dry, warm and windy conditions.

The National Weather Service has issued "red flag warnings" through Sunday evening -- indicative of what it calls "critical fire weather conditions" -- in New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas. But by Sunday night, such warnings were only in effect for parts of Texas and New Mexico.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin on Sunday extended a state of emergency for seven counties. The designation authorizes state agencies to make emergency purchases needed to quickly deliver resources to local jurisdictions, the state's emergency operations center said. The National Weather Service has posted fire warnings for the western two-thirds of the state.

On Saturday, a grass fire burning just south of Cleveland, Oklahoma, prompted evacuations.

As many as 70 firefighters were involved in the response, as well as three helicopters, said Terry Dennis, a spokesman with the Cleveland Fire Department. Twelve families checked into a Red Cross shelter, but more were evacuated, he said.

Dennis said Saturday there had been no reports of injuries.

In Texas, the fear is that relentless heavy winds and dry weather could spawn a rash of wildfires similar to those that swept across the southern plains states on April 9, 2009. Those fires scorched 147,924 acres, destroyed 111 homes and killed four people, the Texas Forest Service stated on its website.

CNN's Stephanie Gallman, Mariano Castillo and Kara Devlin contributed to this report.

 
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