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article imageWest Texas wildfire continues burning, 60 percent contained Special

By Lynn Herrmann     Apr 12, 2011 in Environment
Fort Davis - A major wildfire in the western part of Texas continues to wreak havoc after raging through Jeff Davis County this past weekend, burning 108,000 acres and destroying over two dozen structures in the area.
A West Texas wildfire that ignited on Saturday is now 60 percent contained, according to the Texas Forest Service, but hot spots remain within that area and weather conditions are expected to become less favorable later in the week.
Oscar Mestas, public information officer for the Texas Forest Service, told this reporter on Tuesday that firefighters are slowly getting a handle on the fire. “Right now, the size of the fire is 108,000 acres and it is 60 percent contained,” Mestas said in a phone interview.
Mestas added the Rock House fire began this past weekend and extreme conditions caused it to quickly spread. “The ignition point was southwest of Marfa and it began moving quickly to the northeast. It was wind-driven, and extremely dry conditions caused it to advance rapidly.”
There are currently 150 firefighters on the ground battling the Rock House fire, north of Fort Davis. An additional 600 firefighters from outside the Fort Davis area could be called in to help put out the fire, but they might not be available until Wednesday.
Mestas noted the severity of the fire, with hot spots remaining, some of it located in mountainous terrain inaccessible to vehicles. He stated:“It’s one big fire, but there is lots of unburned fuel within the perimeter. There’s discussion about bringing in heavy air tankers and heavy helicopters to hand the fire up in the rough country.”
The Davis Mountains of West Texas are known for their rugged terrain, with several peaks in the 7,000-8,000 elevation range. Mount Livermore, at 8,206 feet, is the highest peak in the area, and seventh highest in the state.
The center of attention for the fire on Wednesday is an area north of Fort Davis, Mestas said. “The priority today is north of town, around the McDonald Observatory, from Casket Mountain to Star Mountain.” Currently, the observatory is not threatened.
The fire has destroyed more than two dozen structures in the area, according to Mestas. “We had a report of 23 homes destroyed in the town of Fort Davis, two in Marfa, and two businesses in Fort Davis.”
With the major wildfire partially contained, Mestas noted:“There have been no major injuries or fatalities, but we had two firefighters injured today. They have been treated and released.” There were two injuries to firefighers but they were later released.
A red flag warning remains in effect for the area. Although conditions Monday night improved somewhat, with lower temperatures and higher humidity, Tuesday afternoon’s forecast for the region calls for wind speeds of 20 mph, with stronger gusts occurring. Those conditions are expected to deteriorate by Thursday, with winds increasing to 25-30 mph and gusts as high as 50 mph, according to the National Weather Service.
Natural gas services to Fort Davis remain turned off, but gas lines will likely be purged later today. “We’re hoping to have businesses back up by this evening and residences by tomorrow,” Mestas said. Electricity to Fort Davis is 75 to 80 percent restored.
All roads are open at this time.
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