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12 Homes Destroyed In Fires Near Amarillo

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A firefighter attacks a wildfire near Canyon, Texas (Credit: KFDA-TV)

A firefighter attacks a wildfire near Canyon, Texas (Credit: KFDA-TV)

AMARILLO (AP) - Two wildfires have destroyed at least 12 homes on the outskirts of the Panhandle city of Amarillo, Texas Forest Service officials said Monday.

The fires began burning early Sunday evening, said Texas Forest Service spokesman Marq Webb. He said low humidity, temperatures in the 100s and winds from about 40 to 50 mph created favorable conditions for fires. Webb said firefighters were battling wildfires across Texas, where about 2.8 million acres have burned since November.

Texas Forest Service spokeswoman April Phillips said a fire on the southern edge of Amarillo destroyed five homes and damaged four others. The fire of about 200 acres was about 90 percent contained on Monday and she said it was expected to be 100 percent contained by early evening.

A 1,243-acre fire to the northwest that destroyed seven homes was about 80 percent contained on Monday.

“They were fighting fires on both sides of town last night,” Texas Forest Service spokeswoman April Phillips said.

Evacuations orders have been lifted for both areas.

Texas Forest Service spokesman Tim Evans said the fire to the northwest was started after a vehicle caught fire. He did not yet know the cause of the southern fire.

Phillips said three people were treated and released with minor injuries in the northwest fire: two people suffered smoke inhalation and a firefighter had an eye injury.

The home where Janet and Wick Culp have lived for the last 30 years was among those lost in the northwest fire.

“We’re still pretty numb about it,” Wick Culp told the Amarillo Globe-News. “We had a lot of family things in the house.”

Janet Culp said they, along with their pets, had been on vacation in southern New Mexico and were on their way home Sunday evening when a neighbor called to tell them the neighborhood behind their home was being evacuated.

They got home at about 11 p.m., but authorities weren’t allowing people back home yet. The couple stayed in a motel overnight and returned home this morning to rubble where their home used to be.

“We weren’t prepared to see it,” Janet Culp said. “Family photos, that’s what I miss most.”

Conditions were expected to remain ripe for fires near Amarillo on Monday. Ken Schneider, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Amarillo, said that temperatures were expected in the high 90s, with low humidity and wind gusts up to 60 mph. By Tuesday though, a front was expected to drop temperatures to the high 80s and winds were only expected to be from 15 to 20 mph.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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