Residents, livestock and journalists flee the PK wildfire

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by JIM DOUGLAS

Bio | Email | Follow: @wfaajdouglas

WFAA

Posted on August 31, 2011 at 6:46 PM

Palo Pinto grass fire

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PALO PINTO COUNTY — Evacuations were ordered at The Harbor, The Ranch and The Peninsula communities on the north side of Possum Kingdom Lake after a 6,200-acre wildfire took a nasty turn Wednesday afternoon.

Firefighters threw a lot at it, but officials said almost nothing was working.

By three o'clock, flames charged over a ridge and approached the Possum Kingdom Lake dam. Tom Hardeston watched helplessly. "My house is right through here, though it may be gone," he said.

At 3:20, the Texas Forest Service made an emergency announcement.

"As you've seen, the conditions have changed radically," said spokesman John Nicols. "The IC is in the process of starting to evacuate."

They pulled out of their command observation post and told journalists to get out, too.

"They were putting a lot of water and a lot of retardant on that fire, and it wasn't slowing it down," Nicols said.

South of the fire, the owner of a general store on Highway 16 gave away all the ice he had to volunteers helping firefighters, and to ranchers trying to save their herds.

"I'm just moving them [livestock] from pasture to pasture," said Cindi McCoy. "As one pasture burns, I'm moving them back to that one and bring them back around."

One volunteer thought her home was safe in an area called The Peninsula. But two hours later, flames and embers forced her community to be evacuated.

"It's got a river to jump; that's nothing for this fire as aggressive as it is right now," Nicols said.

Firefighters estimated the fire was only 25 percent contained late Wednesday afternoon.

As of now, 39 homes have been burned and 9 RVs have also been consumed by the flames.

E-mail jdouglas@wfaa.com

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