Wildfire destroys 6 homes in rural West Texas


Published: Friday, January 23, 2009 at 7:13 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 23, 2009 at 7:13 p.m.

HAWLEY, Texas A wildfire destroyed six homes and forced the evacuation of others in a rural area west of Dallas, authorities said Friday.

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Flames rise above a thick stand of oak and other trees as a wildfire spreads northeast through Jones County, Texas, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2009. The blaze wasn't yet under control Friday, but it was about 50 percent contained, Texas Forest Service spokesman Nick Harrison said.

The Associated Press

Officials estimate that about 2,600 acres have burned, Texas Forest Service spokesman Nick Harrison said. They had originally thought the fire covered 5,800 acres but reduced that figure after a helicopter flyover Friday, he said.

The blaze was about 50 percent contained by Friday afternoon, Harrison said. Firefighters used bulldozers to dig up the ground and cut down grass and brush that helped fuel the fire.

No injuries have been reported and the cause was unknown, he said. The six homes that burned down were scattered across a rural area near Hawley, a town of nearly 600 residents just northwest of Abilene, Harrison said.

Officials originally said eight homes had been destroyed. Harrison said five hunting cabins, 10 vehicles and about 20 outbuildings also were burned down.

Ted Ryan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth, said the fire was boosted by dry conditions across the state.

"Anytime we are dry in the winter like this, all it takes are some freezing conditions and that dries out the grass and leaves it dormant," Ryan said. "From a fire-weather standpoint, it is certainly just as bad as a severe drought."

Meanwhile, another wildfire blazed near Albany on Friday, threatening six homes and destroying two outbuildings. The fire on the Shackleford-Throckmorton county line has burned 1,000 acres, Harrison said.

"It is in some rough terrain, so containment remains pretty low," Harrison said.

Wildfires in January and February 2008 burned at least 70,000 acres and destroyed 60 homes and structures across Texas.

Abilene is about 175 miles west of Dallas, while Albany is about 150 miles west.

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