Reporting Bud Gillett
PALO PINTO COUNTY (CBS 11 NEWS) – High winds and low humidity made it tough for firefighters working the first big wildfire of the season at Possum Kingdom Lake. It broke out late Monday afternoon on the peninsula leading to Golden Cove. Ten homes were evacuated as a precaution, but with only one road in and out, authorities would not let people back in.
By late Tuesday Senein Noack still hasn’t seen her family’s vacation home on the lake, but she’s taking heart from word that no houses were lost in these latest wildfires. “The fact there’s been no structural damage is a huge blessing,” she said. Still, there’s uncertainty. “Right now with the winds blowing the way they are my home is safe, but if the wind shifts I could be in imminent danger.”
Low humidity and high winds were the wild card all day. The flames were in a different area from the conflagration of two years ago; not as many Cedar trees this time but lots of dried vegetation fueling stubborn hot spots.
Dean Heffner’s been a fishing and tourist guide at the lake for 20 years. And though the smoke hung low over the trees, looking more like fog than evidence of a fire, the flames were occasionally visible. Add that to the evacuation of ten homes yesterday, and it all brought back unpleasant recollections of 2011′s devastating wildfires.
“Flashbacks,” Heffner said adding, “Okay, are we going to have another one with 65,000 acres burned, like that one was close to? Not nothing nobody around here wants to see again.”
Firefighters say it’s actually harder to fight this one. Mark Engebretson, spokesman for Palo Pinto County Mnagement, told CBS 11 News, “The other area (in 2011) was flatter terrain, it was easier to navigate across, it was easier to cut the road. With this being hillside, rocks and dropoffs…this is tough.”
No homes were evacuated Tuesday though, at one time, 30 homes were feared to be in harm’s way. Still, people weren’t let into the firefighting area unless they were returning for medicine or pets.
The danger effected not only residents, but contractors set to work on homes. “Can’t go to work, can’t make no money,” Patty Johnson told us.
Contractor Mark Paul added, “Just sit and wait it out. All you can do. I’m just glad it didn’t get that high-dollar house we’re working on.”
It could have been worse. At one time it was feared 130 acres had gone up in smoke. But aerial sweeps with a GPS unit lowered the figure to 39.
By dinner time, fire officials said they had the wildfire 70-percent contained and were in a “mopping up” mode.
Bulldozers used the fighting the flames were seen being hauled out of the area, their work apparently finished. While high winds had remained throughout the afternoon, the humidity remained relatively high as well, and that helped efforts to contain the blaze.
“Everybody’s keeping their fingers crossed,” Engebretson said, “and hopefully by this time tomorrow we’ll be kicking back and chilling out.”
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