POSSUM KINGDOM LAKE -- As the evacuated homeowners of The Cliffs Resort watched the smoke spread Wednesday afternoon, they waited to hear whether they would have to evacuate again.
They didn't have to wait long.
Word reached them at The Harbor, a development where residents had been put up Tuesday night when a fire spread through The Cliffs, destroying at least 25 homes and condos in the gated community.
Their refuge was placed under an evacuation order about 3 p.m. Wednesday along with other neighborhoods and camps in the area known as the Peninsula.
John Nichols, a Texas Forest Service spokesman, said the fire had intensified Wednesday afternoon near The Cliffs as tankers and helicopters were repeatedly making drops of water and retardants.
Known as the 101 Ranch fire, it scorched at least 6,200 acres and destroyed 39 homes and nine recreational vehicles, according to the Forest Service. The blaze was mainly at the southern end of the lake, threatening up to 400 homes. By Wednesday night, it was 30 percent contained, service spokesman Tom Berglund said.
Though it was much smaller than the wildfires that devastated the lake area in the spring, burning 127,000 acres and destroying 167 homes, this blaze, coupled with high temperatures of 106 degrees, was also taking a toll on the area.
"I've basically had half of my county burn this year," Palo Pinto County Sheriff Ira Mercer said. "This whole year has just been one after another."
Palo Pinto County has always been ripe for wildfires with its rolling terrain and thick cedars. But this year's extreme drought made the fires far more destructive.
Larry Anderson, a Cliffs evacuee, said he was happy to be alive after Tuesday's fast-moving fire.
Anderson, a retired Dallas Fire Department deputy chief, and two other Cliffs homeowners composed a makeshift volunteer fire crew for the subdivision when the blaze came roaring toward them.
Neighbors Ed Merten and Jim O'Neil were forced to jump from the community's recently acquired firetruck as Anderson drove through a wall of flames.
"I told them, 'Run!' The flames were right behind them," Anderson said.
The last Merten and O'Neil saw of Anderson was when the truck disappeared into the flames. It would take hours for them to learn that he had survived.
"We didn't know if he was dead or not," said Merten, who was treated at a Graham hospital for second-degree burns. He had also been stuck with hundreds of cactus spines, which took three staff members more than three hours to remove them. "And they said I had another 1,000 more in me."
Anderson, who was unscathed, hadn't decided whether to rebuild his burned home.
"We're just taking it one day at a time," he said. "We've just decided not to decide."
But Merten said he wasn't going anywhere. He works as a Realtor for Pondera Properties, a real estate company at Possum Kingdom that uses Facebook to provide constant updates on the fire.
"I'll be here for good whether my home makes it or not," Merten said.
A decision was made Wednesday afternoon to evacuate YMCA Camp Grady Spruce, which sits across from the area where the fire was burning.
Sarah Byrom, associate vice president for the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas, said the YMCA was hosting a group of about 90 students from Dublin schools. The students left the camp on school buses at the site.
"There is no immediate threat from the wildfires to Camp Grady Spruce, but local officials at Possum Kingdom Lake are concerned about the fires in the area approaching the dam," Byrom said. "Out of an abundance of caution, they have ordered a mandatory evacuation of the Peninsula."
Students from the Northwest school district left the camp Tuesday.
Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698