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Firefighters get upper hand on Texas wildfire

From Jim Spellman, CNN
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Drought keeps Texas wildfire burning
  • A wildfire in northern Texas is 50% contained, the authorities say
  • The wildfire has destroyed 40 homes, a fire official says
  • Some evacuations have been lifted, an official says
  • Firefighters are still battling hot spots in Oklahoma City

Read more about this story from WFAA and KOCO.

Brad, Texas (CNN) -- Authorities were working on plans Friday for residents who were forced to flee a wildfire in northern Texas to return home, a day after firefighters made progress battling the blaze that destroyed dozens of homes.

The blaze in Palo Pinto County scorched 6,200 acres by Thursday, according to the Texas Forest Service. The fire is burning near the resort of Possum Kingdom Lake, near the town of Brad, about 100 miles west of Dallas.

"We feel much better about this fire today," as the blaze is now 50% contained, said John Nichols, a spokesman for the Forest Service.

He said evacuations were lifted for some residents forced to evacuate the fire, which was driven by high temperatures and dry winds.

Wildfires continue to scorch Texas
Homes destroyed in Texas wildfire
  • Wildfires
  • Texas

The wildfire has destroyed 40 homes and nine RVs since it began Tuesday, the Forest Service said Thursday. Firefighters were receiving support from aerial tankers and helicopters.

Authorities are mapping out plans to allow residents to return to their homes, said Palo Pinto County Sheriff Ira Mercer. Authorities also are trying to open the lake for the Labor Day holiday, he said.

On Wednesday, evacuations were ordered in several communities on the north side of the lake after the fire charged over a ridge and approached a dam on the lake, CNN affiliate WFAA reported. The wildfire was moving so fast that the Forest Service pulled out of its command observation post, telling journalists and onlookers to get out of the way of the fire.

"My house is right through here, though it may be gone," Tom Hardeston told WFAA as he watched the fire.

Nearby ranchers battled to save their herds from the encroaching fire.

"I'm just moving them from pasture to pasture," Cindi McCoy told WFAA, referring to her livestock. "As one pasture burns, I'm moving them back to that one and bring(ing) them back around."

The weather forecast continued to predict mostly dry weather for the area for Friday, with high temperatures from the mid-90s into the 100s, the Forest Service said.

Texas is experiencing the worst fire season in state history. Since fire season began last November, a record 3.5 million acres have burned. Hot and dry weather combined with a historic drought have made conditions ripe for rapid fire growth.

In the past seven days, the Forest Service has responded to 224 fires burning a combined 31,541 acres.

Meanwhile, in neighboring Oklahoma, firefighters were battling hot spots Thursday from a wildfire in northeast Oklahoma City, Fire Chief Keith Bryant said. National Guard helicopters were assisting, Bryant said.

The blaze was one of two large brush fires that had covered more than 16 square miles on the city's north and south sides Wednesday, forcing some evacuations and closure of Interstate 40 and the Turner Turnpike. Both roads were later reopened, CNN affiliate KOCO said.

CNN's Dave Alsup contributed to this report.