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Community Unites To Help Firefighters Battle Blaze

By Joel Thomas, CBS 11 News
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Volunteer firefighter Jason Collard prepares to fight a running wildfire on April 19, 2011 in Strawn, Texas. (credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Volunteer firefighter Jason Collard prepares to fight a running wildfire on April 19, 2011 in Strawn, Texas. (credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

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PALO PINTO (CBSDFW.COM) – There’s no need to travel far from Palo Pinto to understand the fears that prompted Tuesday’s evacuation of the 400-population town.

There are acres of charred land and rubble where buildings once stood. The volunteer firefighters from the town stayed, though, to continue their battle against the blaze – and they received some unexpected help.

“We’re getting exhausted,” said Chief Berry Faubion of the Palo Pinto Volunteer Fire Department. “We’re tired. But nobody’s quitting.”

When they have downtime, fire fighters prepare to return to the battle by mending brush trucks while trying to recuperate.

The town of Palo Pinto may be deserted, but volunteers have not left the firefighters. As soon as fire fighters declared the evacuation as a voluntary procedure and not mandatory after weather patterns shifted winds in the opposite direction from the town, civilians returned to help.

On Tuesday, weather patterns shifted winds in the opposite direction from the town, prompting the fire fighters to change the evacuation order to voluntary. Soon, residents flooded back in the town to help those battling the blaze.

“Our community has just always come together, our small community, said lifelong Palo Pinto resident Dee Jackson. “”If we weren’t doing what we’re doing they wouldn’t have food out on the line.”

A portable concession stand was donated from the Fort Worth area. It grills up a thousand burgers and hot dogs a day. Volunteers take care packages of food, eye drops and lip balm to the front line of the fight against the blaze.

“They need it,” said Garrett Mcintosh who came from Keller to cook for the firefighters. “They come in dead dog tired at the end of the day and need something to eat.”

An illuminated message sign in neighboring Mineral Wells reads, “Pray for rain and remember the first responders – the firefighters.”

And that sentiment is reflected in truckloads of donated supplies, pouring into Palo Pinto.

The good news is the winds have shifted away from the small city and the fires have shifted course leaving, charred earth behind. No one in Palo Pinto knows what to expect next. But they do know they have one another.

“We’re forgotten a lot of the time until something like this or somebody needs us,” Chief Faubion said. “But when it comes down to it we pull together and we work hard at it.”

Wednesday afternoon the evacuation order for Palo Pinto was lifted – but with a warning to residents: keep your eyes on the weather and the fires still looming out west.

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