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Texas Expects More Explosive Wildfire Potential

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A fireman walks by a burned forest. (credit: Miguel Riopa/AFP/Getty Images)

A fireman walks by a burned forest. (credit: Miguel Riopa/AFP/Getty Images)

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DALLAS (AP) - Conditions were expected to be ripe for wildfires in much of West Texas and the Panhandle on Monday, with gusty winds and low humidity promising little relief for firefighters.

And the strong winds and near-zero relative humidity readings are expected to last through Wednesday, said Lone Star State Incident Commander Gary Bennett.

“We have extremely critical fire weather conditions for the next several days, and that will hamper containment efforts,” he said.

The National Weather Service has placed portions of Texas west of a line running roughly from Wichita Falls southwest to the border city of Del Rio under a “red flag warning” for critical fire conditions.

Dry, hot weather and strong winds fueled wildfires in parts of West Texas on Sunday, prompting evacuations and threatening dozens of homes.

The so-called Gage Holland fire west of Alpine prompted Brewster County Sheriff Ronny Dodson to evacuate a subdivision northwest of the city Sunday afternoon. U.S. 67/90 was closed for several hours between Alpine and Marfa.

That fire erupted about Sunday afternoon near where U.S. 67/90 crosses the Brewster-Presidio county line at Paisano Pass, said Ed Brown, spokesman for the Trans-Pecos firefighting team.

Southwest winds of 10 to 15 mph and relative humidity readings of 2 percent carried the flames toward Alpine, with juniper trees fueling 50-foot-tall flames. Three C-130 aircraft and smaller air tankers assisted the firefighting effort, but the fire had scorched 3,500 acres by nightfall, when Brown said it was 10 percent contained.

The cause of the fire was not yet known, Brown said.

Meanwhile, firefighters battled a 35,000-acre fire in Dickens County about 70 miles east of Lubbock, where winds gusted to 30 mph with humidity readings of 1 percent and temperatures approaching 100 degrees.

Two separate fires ignited by Friday lightning strikes merged into a single complex late Saturday. The fire was 15 percent contained as of nightfall Sunday, said Alex Carfrae, spokesman for the Lone Star fire management team.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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