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Possum Kingdom Lake fire 50 percent contained

09/01/2011 12:08 PM

09/01/2011 11:08 PM

The Possum Kingdom fire is less aggressive Thursday, but still only about 50 percent contained, officials said.

Firefighting experts were optimistic that the worst may be over, but weren't able to predict how much longer the fires will burn.

"We're not quite there on the radar yet," said John Nichols, a Texas Forest Service spokesman.

Flames Tuesday and Wednesday ate a lot of trees and brush, leaving less to support fires Thursday, Nichols said.

"We're at a point where once those fuels were taken out, the situation changed," he said. "We feel much better about how this fire is behaving."

One firefighter was treated for heat stress-related exhaustion overnight, but will return to duty in the next shift, Nichols said.

Palo Pinto County Sheriff Ira Mercer said that two communities remain behind barricades in the wake of flames that burned between 6,200 and 6,500 acres. Authorities are developing re-entry plans for homeowners, insurance adjusters and others who have business there.

"There are people in Gaines Bend who didn't leave" when an evacuation was ordered, Mercer said. "It's not accessible because it's behind the barricades. Ideally, we'll just limit access to The Cliffs. That's the hardest hit, most affected area we've got."

Mercer said that power and water service may be disrupted in those areas for some time, but he said he hopes people won't have to change plans for visiting other areas of the lake over the Labor Day holiday.

"The lake's still open," he said. "Several of the subdivisions are still open."

Nichols said that the evacuation orders for the peninsula, Ranch and Harbor areas have been lifted. The only part of the lake that's closed is behind red barricades.

"We're still fighting fires over here," he said. "(Authorities) need you to be aware that things can change. We're trying to get things open as fast as possible, but public safety is the top priority."

Nichols said that a DC-10 tanker plane never was used, but seven smaller fixed-wing planes and two helicopters remain active or available.

"We'll only see the fixed-wings today if we have another aggressive fire," he said. "We'll probably see the helicopters today. They're also used for mop-up and support of ground resources."

Those resources include 135 firefighters on day shift and 125 on night shift, Nichols said.

A command center remains at the Brazos River Authority overlook at Farm Road 2353 and Texas 16, he said.

Terry Evans, 817-390-7620

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