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North Texans Volunteer In The Panhandle After Wildfires

By Melissa Newton, CBS 11 News
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Flames from a burning fire. (credit: Getty Images/Paul Ellis/AFP)

Flames from a burning fire. (credit: Getty Images/Paul Ellis/AFP)

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KELLER (CBSDFW.COM) – It was a devastating weekend for many in West Texas, as wildfires burned out of control, destroying homes and land and caused at least one death.

“Usually what happens in a disaster situation, crisis hits you,” said Albert Gonzales of the American Red Cross in Fort Worth, “very emotional.”

A group of North Texas volunteers from the Chisholm Chapter of the Red Cross left Monday afternoon to assist those in need in the Panhandle.

“While they have local volunteers there, it’s impacting their community,” said Kim Christian a case work manager on the team. “So undoubtedly they’ll have volunteers that can’t respond because they’re affected.”

The Red Cross isn’t sending any equipment or response trucks from North Texas at this time because elevated fire danger here could spark problems in our own backyard.

It happened Sunday night near Interstate 35W and Highway 170, near Keller.

The small grass fire didn’t threaten any homes but came close enough to concern some residents.

“The wind and the dry weather are always a concern this time of year,” said Colleyville Fire Chief Russell Shelley. “We still have plenty of resources in Tarrant County to handle any other outbreaks that happen closer to home that may develop.”

Numerous firefighters from departments across North Texas, including Colleyville, have resources and equipment deployed to West Texas to help battle the wildfires there. However, departments are careful not to leave their own backyards unprotected.

Nine cities in Tarrant County have sent crews as part of a mutual aid system that has been in place for about four years.

They were notified Saturday that the wind and dry conditions could create a high fire danger. By Sunday afternoon 48 departments from across the state were on their way to the devastated area.

“A lot of West Texas is served by small, volunteer departments,” Chief Shelley said. “Having these additional resources on hand can be the difference between controlling a fire, and a fire overtaking a small town.”

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