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Texas burning 'from border to border'

By the CNN Wire Staff
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Forest Service responded to 4 new fires Wednesday totaling more than 1,000 acres
  • Evacuation orders were lifted for Coke County and Palo Pinto, Texas
  • Possum Kingdom resident Jackie Fewell has set up a blog to provide updates
  • New fires emerge in Stephens and Garza counties in northern Texas

Read more about this story from CNN affiliates WFAA and KTVT. Are you there? Share your photos and video.

Dallas (CNN) -- Texas firefighters Wednesday battled blazes that have scorched more than a million acres and have been burning for more than a week, according to the Texas Forest Service.

"We're actually seeing Texas burn from border to border. We've got it in west Texas, in east Texas, in north Texas, in south Texas -- it's all over the state," Forest Service spokeswoman April Saginor told CNN Radio. "We've got one in the Dallas area that's four fires that have actually merged together."

Saginor said firefighters from 34 states are now in Texas battling blazes that, over the past two weeks, have destroyed more than 170 homes.

"Some (fires) are over 100,000 acres and they've been burning for over a week, so that's our priority right now," Saginor said, "to put out the big ones."

Firefighter Greg Simmons died Friday trying to extinguish the East Sidwynicks fire in Eastland County.

Five other volunteer firefighters have been injured by the East Sidwynicks fire, which has burned 3,000 acres.

High-res photos: Wildfires blaze across Texas

Another firefighter was treated and released from a hospital in Graham after his bulldozer clipped a gas line and caused an explosion.

"The state of Texas is under siege," Saginor said. "Wildfire is dangerous and it's threatening homes, lives and property on a daily basis. We caution residents to take this threat seriously and heed the call of their local authorities when told to evacuate."

The tinder-dry landscape has provided no shortage of fuel: On Wednesday, emergency personnel responded to four new fires across more than 1,000 acres, according to the Texas Forest Service. On Tuesday, they responded to 10 new fires, totaling more than 2,000 acres.

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RELATED TOPICS
  • Wildfires
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  • Dallas (Texas)

Since January 1, the Texas Forest Service said, it has responded to more than 800 fires that have damaged some 5,000 structures across 1.4 million acres.

Fire-friendly conditions were expected to return Thursday in various parts of the state, the National Weather Service said.

"Even if we get two inches of rain, the ground's going to eat it up," said David Hennig, a Weather Service meteorologist in Midland, Texas. "We need a pattern shift."

West Texas averages nearly 15 inches of rain a year, according to Hennig. In the past six months, only 13-hundredths of an inch of rain have been recorded in that part of the state. While October through March is typically the dry season, that amount of rainfall is far below what it should be, Hennig said.

He said weather models show the possibility of more storms this weekend and perhaps next week. While the rain is needed, storms accompanied by lightning pose a fire risk, he said.

The Guadalupe Mountains face an extreme risk of fire through Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.

Van Horn, which is 165 miles west of Odessa, is expected to face a critical fire threat on Thursday, as well as the nearby state Highway 54 corridor and the southeast New Mexico plains.

One of the largest fires plaguing Texas rampaged between the towns of Graham and Graford.

That fire, fewer than 70 miles west of Dallas-Fort Worth, burned into residential areas surrounding Possum Kingdom Lake Monday night, destroying and damaging homes in four or five neighborhoods, according to Marq Webb, a spokesman with the Texas Forest Service.

Possum Kingdom resident Jackie Fewell set up a blog to provide updates on the crisis since fire warnings first were extended to the 3,000-home lake community.

Crews protect Texas observatory with fire of their own

"I was frustrated by a lot of misinformation that was being passed around by a lot of well-intentioned people through Facebook and text-messaging," she said.

Fewell set up the blog Saturday as a part of the website for Pondera Properties, the lake's managing real-estate company, where she works.

"We have been able to generate this incredible response," Fewell said, noting the site has served as a bridge between residents in need of help and those able to provide it.

"We get remarks from people all over needing help," she said. "If we put out a query to get 200 leather gloves to the area, we'll have those gloves within a few days."

Wildfire ravages home but spares family roosters

Fewell said the site has been responsible for aiding residents in a number of ways, from saving abandoned pets to providing real-time updates on properties threatened by the blaze.

The Palo Pinto County Sheriff's office said it evacuated 200 residents from the town of Palo Pinto and moved them to shelters. Two buses were sent to evacuate jail inmates, said Deputy Randy Hunter. That evacuation order was lifted Wednesday afternoon.

Dianne Simpson told CNN affiliate KSAN that she and her husband watched nervously as a wildfire approached their house near the Tom Green County-Coke County line, where residents had evacuated.

Texas Forest Service: Fire dangers and advisories

"We just sat out here on the deck and watched it burn, and it was just pretty devastating," Simpson said. "You're just sitting here going 'There's nothing I can do.' "

According to KSAN, the blaze stopped just 330 yards from the Simpsons' house.

By Wednesday, the evacuation order for Coke County had been lifted, according to Texas Forest Service spokeswoman Saginor.

CNNRadio's Thomas Andres and CNN's Dave Alsup contributed to this report.

 
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