PARKER COUNTY, TEXAS - A fallen power line is to blame for sparking a 2,500-acre grass fire near Willow Park in Parker County Monday.
Three fires broke out that day across the county. According to the Texas A&M Forest Service, "forward progress had been stopped" on the largest fire shortly after 4:30 p.m.
That fire was caused by a fallen power line, fire marshals said, and closed highways and forced the evacuations of two schools and several homes.
Willow Park is just north of I-20 near the I-20/I-30 split. The City posted on social media that homes on Fox Hunt Trail began being evacuated just before 1:30 p.m.
According to Parker County Judge Mark Riley, a fire in the northwest of the county had been contained. A third fire broke out near Bankhead Drive and I-20 near Weatherford, but it was also contained by the evening.
SMOKE ON RADAR. The massive Parker County grass fire is spreading smoke across DFW and areas to the south. If you smell smoke in DFW or see a milky looking sky, this is why #ParkerCounty #dfwwx #wfaaweather pic.twitter.com/TlyvMrx6t4— Jesse Hawila (@JesseWFAA) January 22, 2018
Crews watered the roads to make sure the fires didn't spread. North Texas experienced peak wind gusts more than 40 mph, making conditions easier for fires to spread quickly.
Emergency management officials with Parker County issued an evacuation order for residents along I-20 from Farmers Road West to Ranch House Road, and north and east to White Settlement Road, Cattle Baron Road, and the Walsh Ranch subdivision up to FM 730.
Walsh Elementary and McCall Elementary in the Aledo Independent School District were also evacuated, school officials said. Aledo ISD said all students were safe.
Aledo ISD understands roads are closed and traffic is backed up. The district would like reassure parents and guardians that students are safe and staff will be assisting them until they are picked up.#BearcatSafe— Aledo ISD (@AledoISD) January 22, 2018
Coder Elementary School were going to have a delayed dismissal due to the fire, which was being called #FarmersRoadFire on social media.
There has been no word on injuries.
"We have a massive grassfire near Indian Camp Road and Ranch House Road," the City said on Facebook. "The fire is moving east and homes are being evacuated. This is developing quickly and we will keep you updated as much as possible. Please avoid the area so our crews can do their job."
The First Baptist Church on Ranch House Road is offering shelter to those being evacuated, the City said.
In the city of Willow Park, fire threatened more than a dozen homes. In some cases, flames came within inches of structures, but the quick actions of firefighters were able to save them.
Every member of the Willow Park fire department responded, racing to hose down homes with water to prevent them from catching fire.
"Very proud of my guys. And very grateful for all the help," said Chief Mike Lenoir.
Lenoir said flames wrapped around the homes in some cases, and tonight that close call was still visible. Homes appeared as islands in a sea of burned grass.
"Scary to think about, you're that close to losing everything," homeowner Alan Cazares said.
Cazares drove home as soon as he heard that fires were threatening his neighborhood. He was worried about his family's dog that was still inside.
"As I got closer and closer, your heart's in your throat, saying, 'Is this really happening? Am I going to lose it all?'" he recalled.
When he arrived to his house, he found that his dog had been rescued by a firefighter and his home was safe.
"Prayers are answered," he said. "Just fortunate that people have a job that they care about, and they do it very well."
An emergency burn ban has been put in place for Parker County for the next week, lasting through Monday, Jan. 29.
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