December 28, 2005

Fires race across Oklahoma, Texas

OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma (Reuters) - Firefighters in Texas
and Oklahoma battled wind-fueled wildfires on Tuesday that
burned homes and cars and forced one small town to evacuate

The fires, at least several of which officials blamed on
children playing with fireworks, raced across a countryside
parched by months of abnormally dry weather.

Winds near 40 miles per hour (64 kph) whipped through the
region, while temperatures rose to an unseasonably high 80
degrees Fahrenheit (27 Celsius) on Tuesday.

"It's dry as a bone, and brittle," said Oklahoma City Fire
Department spokesman Brian Stanaland. "The fire is traveling
extremely rapidly. It's hopscotching across the country."

Television reports showed the fires moving across the
prairies and into housing developments where homes were ablaze
and cars burning in their driveways. Residents watered their
yards to prevent flying sparks from igniting the grass.

At least six houses were destroyed and many others damaged
in fires around Oklahoma City, the local sheriff's office said.

In the suburb of Mustang, officials ordered people living
in the path of a fire covering several square miles to leave
their homes. They said four people had been injured in the

In Texas, forestry officials said there were fires across
the state, including at least 23 in the Fort Worth area in
northern Texas alone.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry said in a statement there had been 73
wildfires in the state on Monday, and that in all of December
fires had burned 10,000 acres.

He issued a statewide disaster declaration and ordered that
U.S. Forest Service and Texas Army National Guard aircraft be
used to fight the blazes.