Just thought I'd let everyone know REH's house was not caught in the wildfires that have been burning here in Texas.
High temperatures (for this time of year, anyway), high winds and a near-record drought have turned north-central Texas into a tinderbox. The fires hit Cross Plains hard, burning about 50 or so houses, businesses and so forth. Though I feel terrible for those poor people who did lose their homes, I'm relieved that at least REH's house was not likewise destroyed.
Man, I'd heard news reports about fires in Texas and Oklahoma, but didnt even consider whether or not Cross Plains had been hit... here's the press write-up on this...
Wildfires Char 100 Homes in Okla., Texas
CROSS PLAINS, Texas (AP) - Linda and Kenneth Dixson recently turned down an offer to buy their quaint renovated farmhouse, deciding instead to stay put and fill it with new furniture. But after wildfires charred more than 100 homes and killed at least five people in Texas and Oklahoma, the Dixsons inspected the only thing left of their dream home: a charred, smoldering heap.
"We didn't take any clothes, and now it's all gone," Kenneth Dixson said Wednesday night while eating at First Baptist Church, where the American Red Cross set up a shelter. "I didn't want to go back out there today. I just didn't want to see it again."
Severe drought, wind gusts of 40 mph and temperatures reaching the low 80s set the stage for the fires in Texas and Oklahoma, which authorities believe were mostly set by people ignoring fire bans and burning trash, shooting fireworks or throwing out cigarettes.
The flames ripped across nearly 20,000 acres in the two states. At least 73 blazes were reported in Texas over two days, and dozens more broke out in Oklahoma.
Cross Plains, a working-class town about 115 miles west of Fort Worth, was one of the hardest-hit communities, losing about 50 homes and a church. Remnants of several of the burned-out Cross Plains houses still smoldered Wednesday evening, blanketing the air with a smoky haze and burning odor.
Two elderly women died after being trapped in their homes by the fire, said Cross Plains Fire Chief Bob Harrell.
One was Mattie Faye Wilson, 67, who taught several generations of Cross Plains first-graders before her retirement, said Debbie Gosnell, a city administrator. "She was a really sweet woman," Gosnell said.
Another victim was Maudie Sheppard, a bedridden 89-year-old living with her son. He wasn't home when the fire swept through, neighbors said, but by the time he rushed home to try and save her, it was too late.
The grass fires destroyed more than 100 buildings across Texas, including 78 homes, the state emergency management agency said. About 50 homes were destroyed in Oklahoma, authorities said.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry planned to survey the Cross Plains damage by air Thursday. Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry said Wednesday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had approved the state's request for federal assistance tied to fighting the fires.
This year has been the fifth driest year on record for north and central Texas, where most of the fires occurred. The annual rainfall in the Dallas-Fort Worth area is about 16 inches less than the average of about 35 inches. Oklahoma has received about 24 inches of rain this year, about 12 inches less than normal.
Some residents of Mustang, just west of Oklahoma City, returned to their homes Wednesday to pick through what remained. Five homes were destroyed as the fire raced across 400 acres.
Pat Hankins watched as friends and family members pulled partially destroyed items from his home and put them on the lawn. Inside, heaps of blackened insulation lay on top of a bed in a back bedroom lit by sunlight that poured through holes in the ceiling.
"We were planning on dying here," said Hankins, 62, of the home he has shared with his wife for 13 years. "We loved this piece of property. Whether we'll rebuild, I just don't know."
Another eight homes were lost in a fast-moving grass fire in Choctaw, east of Oklahoma City. Among those destroyed was the home of Kenneth Franks, who had lived there since 1976.
The fire ripped through with such intensity that the aluminum cylinder heads of his wife's car melted into a pool that later hardened in front of the car. The dashboard dissolved around what was left of the steering wheel.
"When me and my wife got married 23 years ago, we had this house and a couple of cars," Kenneth Franks said. "We have less now than we did then."
Associated Press writers Sheila Flynn in Cross Plains, Sean Murphy in Oklahoma City, and Tim Talley in Mustang, Okla., contributed to this report.