PALO PINTO COUNTY (CBSDFW.COM) – For the third day, wildfires continued to burn around Possum Kingdom Lake in Palo Pinto County Thursday,
Firefighters battled smoke, flames and weather conditions as the fire picked up when the humidity dropped and wind speeds increased. An additional 300 acres burned Thursday on the southern end of the fire.
Despite the huge plumes of smoke firefighters told CBS 11 News things are getting better.
“Incident management and crews feel real comfortable with where they are today,” said John Nichols, with the Texas Forest Service.
Helicopters used large buckets to lift water from Possum Kingdom Lake and douse the fire by air.
Some 280 firefighters were on the ground Thursday afternoon, putting out hot spots and making sure smoldering embers flare back up. As night fell, 200 remained in an attempt to protect homes that remain standing.
So far, some 40 structures have burned down, most of those homes inside the Cliffs Resort. As of Thursday evening the fire was about 50-percent contained.
Officials will decide Friday morning on letting evacuated residents from the Cliffs and Gaines Bend back into their homes. Early Thursday officials lifted the orders for people living in The Peninsula, The Harbor and The Ranch.
While crews have at least one more day before the blaze is extinguished officials say they are making great progress. “Hand crews are actually able to work on mop up today,” said Palo Pinto County Sheriff Ira Mercer.
Stephenville firefighter Steve Green said it comes down to old-fashioned elbow grease. “We can do all the work by air that we want but I’ve always been taught ‘boots on the ground’,” he said.
The heat and harsh conditions are taking a toll on crews. For many firefighters at the scene it’s been three consecutive days of battling the blaze.
Officials are hoping the fire won’t snuff out Labor Day holiday plans in the area, and are encouraging people to still come out. “I’m certainly hoping we get this under control so that it’s safe and comfortable for people to be here,” said Sheriff Mercer.
Hundreds of families are still set to head to Possum Kingdom Lake for the holiday weekend. Campsites and resorts are booked. Mercer and others say to just be aware of emergency trucks along the road this weekend.
For many who live and play along the lake, the fire hasn’t slowed their plans. “I say come on out, its great it feels good,” said lake visitor Suzanne Knight. “They’ve made it clear the businesses are open and The Peninsula is welcoming vacationers.”
Fire has destroyed and damaged many properties but other areas have gone untouched. Possum Kingdom Lake has a shoreline of 300 miles, with some 3,000 houses, condos and cabins in a dozen subdivisions.
Lake visitor Jay Knox is determined. “We said we were going to keep our plans and come out,” he said. “As long as the boat ramps open and we can get to the cabin we’re going to do it.”
In fact, the Brazos River Authority is working to ensure boat ramp access to Possum Kingdom Lake remains open this weekend.