NAVARRO (CBSDFW.COM) – Widespread wildfires in Navarro County destroyed nine buildings and spurred mandatory evacuations throughout the area before a bout of rain helped fire fighters get the blaze under control.
The fires started at about 3:30 p.m. Sunday, propelled by extremely dry conditions and heavy winds. About three hours after the fires started, storm clouds began to move through the area and rain helped ease the flames.
A shed behind the Navarro Volunteer Fire Department headquarters was destroyed in Sunday’s blaze. Despite initial reports saying otherwise, the headquarters are operational.
The town of Navarro, which has a population of about 200, was evacuated. Residents were allowed back to their homes at about 8 p.m.
Portions of a rail line bridge that belongs to Burlington Northern was also destroyed. Navarro County Judge H.M. Davenport said the damage “would impact its ability to move throughout our county.”
A Burlington Northern spokesman said the company was holding trains until they saw the extent of the damage.
“That was a BNSF bridge that caught fire,” spokesman Joe Faust said. “It was reported to us at about (5:30 p.m.) this afternoon. We don’t know the extent of the damage yet, but we are holding trains.”
Emergency officials are currently in a helicopter surveying the damage to the area.
“The wind’ll push the fire out ahead,” said Texas Forest Service spokesman Nick Harrison. “You’re putting the heated gasses and radiant heat out in front of the fire … plus you’ve got embers that spot out ahead of the fire.”
The largest wildfire was near the city of Mildred, Davenport said.
“That fire down there is the worst one at this point,” he said. “They’ve called in a 6,000 gallon tanker. But no air support from the Texas Forest Service, they’re working a fire in Limestone County so all we have is two of their units … and all of the fire departments in the county.”
Two-hundred acres near Corsicana also burned when the blaze jumped Business Highway 45. The flames were also on either side of Highway 287, obscuring visibility. Corsicana suffered the most damage: Nine structures were destroyed on Oak Street and Roane Road – none of those were residences – and 14 cars were burned, Navarro County emergency spokesman Eric Meyers said.
Corsicana Mayor Chuck McClanahan said both of the fires threatening his city are now manageable, however.
“The city of Corsicana right now is in good shape, we’ve been able to contain both of the two major hotspots,” he said. “Our concern extends out in the county.”
The fires were burning in an area filled with industrial businesses, Harrison said. Residents who live nearby were asked to evacuate, he added.
Wind gusts averaged between 20 and 25 miles per hour Sunday afternoon. Meteorologists expect them to dip to between 15 and 20 miles per hour at 10 p.m.
Fourteen new wildfires broke out across the state Sunday, Harrison said. Track those here. No injuries were reported from the Navarro County fire.
“It’s just been a very, very active day,” he added.