GLEN ROSE, Texas — Texas governor Greg Abbott has added Somervell County to a disaster declaration in response to a wildfire southwest of Fort Worth.
The Chalk Mountain Fire nearly tripled in size overnight from Monday to Tuesday, growing from around 1,200 acres to 4,000 acres just west of Glen Rose, officials said.
As of July 25, the fire grew to approximately 6,735 acres and is 20% contained, according to the incident website.
Gov. Abbott said there are two minor injuries that've been reported, but no casualties.
The governor also confirmed that 16 homes were destroyed in the fire and five were damaged, though a full account of the damage was not yet available.
While county judge Danny Chambers said evacuations aren't mandatory, Gov. Abbott said 60 families have evacuated their homes.
The fire was burning north from U.S. 67, southwest of Glen Rose.
Crews were continuing to work on protecting structures in the area and create a containment line.
Mary Leathers, a spokesperson for the Texas A&M Forest Service, asked the public on Tuesday to avoid the area to allow crews to battle the fire.
She also said firefighters are "over-taxed" by the hot conditions. Officials were working to ensure firefighters stay as hydrated as possible; temperatures are expected to rise into the 100s again this weekend.
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Leathers said the fire is not a threat to the nearby Comanche Peak Nuclear Plant, which sits off the Squaw Creek Reservoir. Leathers said the fire has not reached the area near the plant and that the plant is surrounded by enough asphalt that would protect it from a fire.
Parks near the fire were being evacuated, though summer camps that were being held in the region are south of the fire, officials said.
Note: The following press conference happened on Saturday afternoon.
Where is the Chalk Mountain Fire?
The Somervell County Fire Department on Monday reported that the fire was happening between Chalk Mountain and Dinosaur Valley Park, which is about 60 miles southwest of Fort Worth.
According to the Texas A&M Forest Service and other officials, the fire had burned slightly over 6,700 acres and is 10% contained, as of Saturday, July 23.
Is there a shelter for residents that've been affected?
The Red Cross opened an overnight shelter at the Somervell County Expo Center for those impacted by the fire. On Saturday, Gov. Abbott said no one was in the shelter and it will close that night.
Of the 16 structures believed to be have been lost in the fire, four of them belong to Beth Key's family on Country Road 1010.
Her family grabbed everything they could, including family photos, clothing for a few days and as much insulin as she could for her son.
“My parents lost their house, everything. My uncle lost this house. Another aunt lost everything. And another aunt is still battling out there trying to keep her house," said Key.
As firefighters, on the ground, and in the air, try to save as much as they can, residents are prepared to evacuate as needed.
Mike and Bea Herlacher watched with their car loaded and ready to evacuate if necessary.
“We’re ready to go if we need to. We’ll pack it in and go. But we are hopeful that the wind will keep it pushed away from here," said Mike.
Human and animal evacuees have been utilizing the Somervell Expo Center, where a massive effort to provide food, shelter and clothing to anyone who needs it.
“It’s just terrible, you know?” Chase Barber said. “I don’t know what to say. My whole family’s land is just burned up overnight. Over a matter of a few hours, everything in our lives changed.”
Barber said the Chalk Mountain Fire burned five of his family’s homes and 200 acres of his family’s land.
“It’s destroyed. I mean, it’s gone,” Barber said. “House is gone. No clothes. All our family albums and memories and stuff like that, it’s gone. We can’t get that back.”
Paluxy Baptist Church helps
Paluxy Baptist Church made care packages to drive out to fire crews, sheriff’s deputies, and anyone who’s too busy to stop working to go find food.
“They’re out there helping people and we need to help people that are helping people as well,” Vanessa Bryant said.
Red Cross items needed
The American Red Cross set up a shelter and food donation site at the Expo Center in Glen Rose. Here are items team members on scene said they are in need of:
- Styrofoam coolers (to put drinks and food in to send out to fire crews)
- Toilet paper
- Canned tuna/chicken
- Instant coffee
Items can be dropped off at the Expo Center at 202 Bo Gibbs Blvd, W. HWY 67, Glen Rose, TX 76043.
Donations for residents
Donations for residents are also being accepted at any branch of the First Financial Bank. Those donations will be going towards the LDL Foundation's fire relief fund.
The Expo Center is taking donations for residents until midnight Saturday night. People can bring cash, clothing and more.
When residents return home and check for any damage from the fire, Gov. Abbott recommends those with insurance to make a claim as soon as possible. Then, people can use the iSTAT Damage Survey to self-report the damages.