- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 5, 2009

WHEELER, TEXAS (AP) - Firefighters from the Texas-Oklahoma border to the Gulf Coast struggled Sunday to contain wildfires that have destroyed homes, killed cattle and charred thousands of aces.

The largest of those fires, an 15,000-acre blaze near the Panhandle town of Wheeler, destroyed eight homes and 26 outbuildings, including barns and garages. An unknown number of cattle were killed, according to the Texas Forest Service.

Forest Service spokeswoman Jeanne Eastham said Sunday that the fire was about 25 percent contained. Strong winds continued to hamper firefighting efforts there and elsewhere.

Four houses, two businesses and six outbuildings were destroyed in a fire in Aransas County on the Gulf Coast late Sunday afternoon. The fire, which covered about 70 acres, threatened at least 100 homes.

Many of Wheeler’s 1,300 residents were evacuated Saturday after the wildfire jumped the North Fork of the Red River, threatening the town, about 90 miles east of Amarillo. They were able to return home Saturday night.

Meanwhile, a 2,170-acre wildfire in Jack County was about 75 percent contained Sunday, officials said. More than a dozen households were evacuated Saturday night, but were allowed to return home about midnight.

Fire crews also were battling three other wildfires in northern parts of the state.

Forest Service officials said 24 firefighters were treated for smoke inhalation Saturday.


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