PALO PINTO COUNTY (CBSDFW.COM) – A mandatory evacuation is in place around Possum Kingdom Lake and residents are being asked to stay away as firefighters continue to battle a massive grass fire.
The fire started at about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday in the town of Graford. Wednesday morning the blaze had consumed some 3,500 acres. By Wednesday afternoon that number had risen to 6,200 acres. By Wednesday evening a total of 39 homes had been destroyed.
In Palo Pinto County smoke on the horizon is a familiar sight this summer. “It’s not far-fetched to say we’ve burned half of our county off,” said Palo Pinto County Sheriff Ira Mercer.
This past April when wildfires scorched more than 150,000 acres around Possum Kingdom Lake the Cliffs Resort was spared. This time homeowners in the gated community weren’t so lucky.
Larry Anderson, a retired Dallas Deputy Fire Chief, is one of those who lost their homes. “This wall of fire engulfed us,” he said. The fire cut off his only escape route by land, so he and some of his neighbors got out of their neighborhood by boat.
In addition to houses destroyed at the Cliffs Resort, fire also claimed a guard shack, the community sales office and nearly all of the trees and brush surrounding the lakeside golf course community.
A CBS 11 News crew stood outside of a house that burned so intensely everything was turned to ashes.
While flames spread quickly they often jumped from house to house. More than two-dozen houses in the Cliffs Resort have been reduced to ashes.
“They’re not all down, it’s sporadic like it was last time,” said Mercer. “It burned some and then the one right next to it will be fine.”
Downed power lines still smolder and flames continue to burn around Possum Kingdom Lake.
Firefighters are trying to contain the blaze both by land and air but the task isn’t easy.
“When you get the kinds of winds and gusts thaty are up to 20-25 miles per hour, it creates problems. If you get any flames at all, there’s just no way you’re going to be able to deal with it by yourself,” said Texas Forestry Service spokesman John Nichols.
According to meteorologists, the soil around Possum Kingdom Lake is at one percent of the normal moisture level.
Dry vegetation has provided fuel for the blaze so on Wednesday firefighters worked to remove any remaining shrubbery or brush in an attempt to protect the structures still standing.
“It’s just charred, the trees are gone, so much of the beauty is gone,” said Sharon Harveston, who was evacuated from the fire. “But we still have our home and our friends; everybody is safe.”
On Wednesday evening, the fire was determined to be 25 percent contained, but as the sun set the air attack was halted.
Residents who evacuated Wednesday afternoon from their homes in The Ranch, The Harbor and Peninsula subdivisions may be able to return to their homes Thursday, according to fire officials.
The Texas Forest Service says the fire has calmed down substantially since Wednesday afternoon, and as the wind has died down, they have been able to make progress in fighting the fire.