Reporting Elizabeth Dinh
GRAFORD (CBSDFW.COM) - A grass fire near Possum Kingdom Lake forced some residents to evacuate their homes on Monday afternoon and early Tuesday morning. The flames were first reported at about 4:00 p.m. on Monday, when firefighters were called to Frontier Unit Road.
When emergency crews arrived, they found that the grass fire had spread to both sides of the road. Firefighters took immediate action to contain the blaze, but it was able to spread quickly through nearby brush and cedar trees. Authorities first estimated that more than 100 acres were burned, but that has since been scaled back to just 39 acres.
There have been no reports of injuries, although somewhere between 10 and 30 homes were threatened.
Several families were forced from their homes because of the flames, particularly those along Frontier Unit Road and Burma Road. That evaucation order was lifted at about 10:00 p.m. on Monday night from some residents, but 10 to 13 families are still waiting to return. Even those families who have had a chance to go back home may be forced to evacuate again later on Tuesday.
Video of the fire on Tuesday morning showed it to be mostly quiet and seemingly under control, with little more than a few hot spots being checked for safety. However, the Texas A&M Forest Service later reported that only 25 percent of the blaze was contained.
Emergency crews are concerned about 80-degree temperatures and 10 to 15 mph winds which are expected to blow in the lake area from the south later in the day. The windy and dry conditions set for Tuesday could easily spark more flames and lead to additional evacuations. Palo Pinto County fire marshal and emergency management director Keiffer Harwell Jr. said, “We have 150 homes possibly could be threatened if the winds are not in our favor.”
Crews are expected to remain on the scene through Wednesday. “The terrain is the main difficulty,” Harwell added. “We’ve gone in with dozers and they’ve hit ledges that are seven to eight foot high. Then, another rock ledge would be above it, another seven to eight foot above it. So, getting into terrain with personnel, and walking is treacherous with heavy equipment, because they’re having to go in, stop, go around and go into a different area because of the rock ledge.”
The Possum Kingdom Lake area, and other areas in Palo Pinto County, were devastated by similar wildfires during extreme drought conditions two years ago. During those wildfires, around 200 homes were destroyed by raging flames. Possum Kingdom Lake is located about 80 miles west of Fort Worth.
Dean Heffner is a fisherman who also gives guided boat tours to lake visitors. He has lived near Possum Kingdom Lake for more than 20 years, and witnessed first-hand the terrible damage that was done by the 2011 fires. “There’s a population of 2,500 to 3,000 people that I call lakeside residents that live here year-round,” he said. Heffner called the lake area a hidden gem, and hopes that firefighters are able to stop the latest rounds of flames before more generations-old homes — and their history — are lost for good.
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