Texas Wildfire Death Toll Rises

FORT WORTH (April 10, 2009)—A third death was reported Friday as wildfires continue to rage across the state after a deadly and devastating day Thursday, during which fires scorched 90,000 acres in Central and North Texas.

Montague County Sheriff Paul Cunningham said Friday that a woman died after calling for an ambulance in a fire near Bowie on Thursday, possibly from a heart attack.

A Montague County couple was killed Thursday when fire overtook their rural home about five miles west of Montague.

Former WFAA-TV reporter Matt Quinn and his wife, Cathy died in the fire.

Their son, Chris, was in fair condition Friday with burns at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas.

The National Weather Service said there was a high fire danger in the North Texas area Friday because of dry conditions and winds gusting up to 25 miles per hour, down considerably from the 60-mile per hour gusts that fanned the flames Thursday and created an extreme danger of fire.

Across the parched region Thursday’s wind-whipped fires devastated the towns of Sunset and Stoneburg in Montague County.

Several dozen homes were destroyed, with only a heap of debris and ashes remaining.

The wind was so strong in West Texas it knocked over a gasoline pump in Odessa.

Chevron District Supervisor Thomas Quintela said the pump had a built-in automatic shut-off switch.

No injuries were reported.

The National Weather Service says the winds are expected to die down heading into the weekend.

A 250-acre fire in Hamilton County was burning Thursday evening in grass and juniper, the Texas Forest Service said.

It was threatening about 150 homes and the city of Hamilton.

Residents along County Road 2486 were being evacuated.

On Fort Hood, a large fire was burning off East Range Road.

Crews from several Fort Hood-area communities are battling the fire, which was partially contained Friday after charring about 5,000 acres.

The Killeen Fire Department sent two brush trucks to help battle the flames.

A fire department official described the fire as “pretty big,” but said no structures are in its path.

The plume of smoke from the fire was visible for miles.

In San Saba County, a fire west of Cherokee had burned about 200 acres Thursday evening and was threatening homes and outbuildings, the Forest Service said.

Meanwhile to the northwest, the wind was fanning the flames of rapidly spreading fires with smoke so intense it showed up on National Weather Service weather radar.

“Fire conditions are extreme making fire fighting very dangerous,” the Texas Forest Service said in an early-evening advisory Thursday.

A fire in Parker County, just west of Fort Worth, prompted officials to order residents in four Hudson Oaks subdivisions to leave their homes.

Authorities said one barn and another structure had burned near the 50 homes that were being evacuated.

The fire involved about 100 acres in a heavily wooded area just south of Interstate 20.

Firefighters in Jack County were working to control two wildfires, one near Post Oak and another southeast of Bryson.

Residents near the paths of the two fires were advised to proceed with evacuations.

An 8,000-acre wildfire in Wilbarger County ignited several businesses and forced the evacuation of schools in Montague and Callahan counties.

Several businesses were burning in an area about four miles west of Electra in Wilbarger County.

An elementary school in Bowie was evacuated and there were as many as 10 fires raging throughout the area.

Montague County Judge Ted Winn says winds were blowing as high as 60 mph.

Also in Montague County, evacuations were underway early Thursday evening in the community of Saint Jo, whose residents were being told to head to Muenster.

Another fire west of Montague jumped Highway 81 near Stoneburg and was moving rapidly to the east.

The Texas Forest Service says fires were also burning in parts of Palo Pinto, Hood and Young counties.

In Young County, a large fire was burning east of Graham and spreading rapidly to the east.

Residents along Highway 380 between Springwood Drive and Cement Mountain Road were told to evacuate immediately.

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