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Firefighters battle East Texas wildfires

By Robyn Claridy rclaridy@news-journal.com
Aug. 29, 2011 at 10 p.m.


Several wildfires were reported in East Texas over the weekend, burning through more than 200 acres of land.

Two fires were reported in Harrison County, one was reported in Gregg County and another was reported in Rusk County Saturday evening.

Harrison County Fire Marshal Thomas Mock said calls started rolling in Thursday evening about a fire off of FM 3001 near Little Cypress Creek, but crews were unable to locate the fire until Friday around 4 p.m.

"Thursday night, Harleton firefighters went out, but they couldn't locate anything. Then around 10 a.m. Woodlawn (crews) went back out there. They even requested a spotter plane, and they saw smoke but couldn't spot it. The fire finally manifested itself just before Friday evening," Mock said.

Mock said the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

"It could have been caused by lightening, but we also know that hunters had been bush hogging the day before," he said.

Crews from Woodlawn, Harleton and Nesbitt were called to assist in extinguishing the blaze, and Texas Forest Service officials used bulldozers to draw a fire line to prevent the fire from spreading.

Crews were also dispatched to a blaze near Uncertain off of Dorrough Road on Friday, which burned about 12 acres of a wooded area.

Texas Forest Service spokeswoman April Saginor said the fire started from a lightning strike.

Mock said about 150 acres of land was destroyed in the fire on FM 3001.

Both fires were listed as 100 percent contained Monday, but Mock said fire and smoke would occur for up to a week after the fire was reported.

He said it wasn't likely the fires would jump the fire line, unless there were severely high winds.

Texas Forest Service spokeswoman Dena Matteson reported Monday the woods fire in Rusk County originally said to have destroyed between 70 and 80 acres actually only burned through 48 acres. She said the fire put six homes in danger, and area fire departments were on standby to prevent the fire from spreading to those homes.

Matteson said the fire was contained, but crews would work through Monday.

Gregg County authorities also reported 15 acres of land burned Saturday evening near the Liberty City exit on Interstate 20.

Gregg County officials said the cause of the fire was blamed on a cigarette.

Fire prevention authorities urged residents and motorists to be cautious of the dry weather conditions, and noted that it would take a significant amount of rain to get the counties out of drought conditions.

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