Fires Scorch Texas And Oklahoma, No Rain Expected - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

12/29/05-Texas, Oklahoma

Fires Scorch Texas And Oklahoma, No Rain Expected

Moister air and calmer winds Wednesday helped firefighters control fires that have killed four people in Texas and one person in Oklahoma in the past two days.

But there is still no rain in sight in the tinder-dry areas of both states.

One woman who died in Texas was trying to soak her yard with water when the fire swept through; another was bedridden and died in her home, officials said. Three people were also reported missing in Texas.

"There is little or no chance of rain for the next several days," said Jack Colley, the chief of Texas Emergency Management Division, in a report about the fires.

"The problematic weather condition of high winds and low relative humidity levels forecast ... will produce extreme fire danger over most of the state," he said.

The fires have charred more than 13,000 acres in central, north-central and northeast Texas. In those areas, it is the fifth-driest year on record.

Colley said more than 100 buildings, including more than 75 homes, were destroyed Tuesday.

"Definitely, conditions are very, very dry and volatile," said state Forest Service spokeswoman Traci Weaver.

Weaver said "red flag warnings" have been issued for Friday and Sunday, indicating dry conditions will return to the state.

Humidity increased from 8 percent Tuesday to 29 percent Wednesday, and strong winds moved away to the east, Weaver said.

While many areas in Texas were mopping up Wednesday, Weaver said fires remained active in five counties.

The hardest-hit area is in Callahan County, where a fire that started outside the town of Cross Plains on Tuesday swept through numerous homes and buildings in the town of 1,000 people.

Weaver said 7,600 acres were scorched by that fire, and up to 70 homes and a church were lost. The fire is 50 percent contained, but she said firefighters didn't know whether that would hold. The entire town was evacuated.

On Wednesday, residents picked through lumps of melted stained glass and rubble from the Cross Plains United Methodist Church.

"We've been coming here for 22 years," a churchgoer told CNN.

"Both of my kids were baptized in this church, lots of weddings, good friends' funerals," she said. "This is home."

Next year, the church was to celebrate its 120th anniversary.

"We had a tornado in '94, and I thought that was bad, but this is so much worse. It's like ... a war zone," another town resident said.

Gov. Rick Perry declared a disaster and dispatched National Guard troops to help battle the flames in the Lone Star State, where helicopters from the National Guard and U.S. Forest Service were helping to fight the fires.

In Oklahoma, a man died Wednesday in a fire in Holdenville, located in Hughes County southeast of Oklahoma City.

Officials reported fires in more than 12 counties that have charred thousands of acres.

Some helicopters were able to take off Wednesday, a day after gusty winds prevented them from flying and dropping water on the flames.

Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry activated the state's emergency operations center in Oklahoma City Tuesday. Henry said a statewide burn ban was in effect.

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