Winds in excess of 50 miles per hour caused power outages, grass fires, structure fires, and collapsed buildings in North Texas and Southern Oklahoma throughout Tuesday.
Grass fires burned throughout the day on both sides of the Red River as dry conditions and wind gusts of nearly 60 miles per hour made for an extremely busy Tuesday for fire crews across Texoma.
A large grass fire that started around 9 o'clock Tuesday morning is now under control, fire officials say. Strong winds made it hard to contain the blaze that early estimates say burned hundreds of acres of farmland.
No homes were reported lost in the fire, but other properties including at least four barns and several dozen bails of hay were destroyed.
No injuries have been reported.
It took crews nearly four hours to contain that fire.
The areas affected most by this fire we're told are at Airport Road and Substation Road and an area believed to be tribal land just east of that location.
Throughout the morning and afternoon, crews have worked together on both sides of the Red River to keep these flames under control.
Near Healdton just after ten o’clock Tuesday morning around the Wirtcamp Road area and West Lincoln, at least three structures burned.
Since 9 a.m. firefighters have worked to contain fires in a two-mile by one-and-a-half-mile zone in the area of nearly 1,300 acres with 18 departments total responding.
Firefighters say Healdton responded first, but calls started coming from Velma Alma, Wilson, and several communities in between as firefighters worked as many as 5 fires at a time from the command post.
One Healdton firefighter suffered second degree burns on his hands and first degree burns to his face. He has since been treated and released from the hospital.
Another firefighter had smoke inhalation but returned to the line.
Three storage sheds were destroyed, and only one home in the entire area suffered exterior damage.
The American Red Cross temporarily set up a shelter at the National Guard Armory in Healdton for evacuations.
In west Carter County, the community of Zaneis is the scene of wildfires that threatened a school on Tuesday.
Firefighters have been extraordinarily busy all day long Tuesday in the Healdton area.
Brush fires started raging near rural communities like Zaneis and Dundee about 9:15 Tuesday morning. Officials say that the blaze consumed at least three structures. The structures were not houses in which people were living but rather out buildings of various types.
At least 10 homes have been evacuated so far, and the Zaneis School was evacuated as well for a short time. A maintenance worker says between 200 and 300 students were taken to a temporary shelter in Healdton shortly before noon.
That shelter which was set up at the armory by the Red Cross and has since been closed now that things seem to be under control.
There are more than 45 firefighters from at least 6 different agencies working to keep these grass fires in check. We understand one firefighter was treated for smoke inhalation and an eye injury and later went back out on the line to continue his work.
As far as how much land has been charred on Tuesday, early estimates would seem to indicate two square miles-- more than 1,200 acres-- have been affected just in this community.
No homes have been lost, and those people who have been forced from their homes are expected to be cleared to go back soon.
Tom Bean Middle School evacuated
In Grayson County, Tom Bean Middle School was evacuated around 11 o’clock Tuesday morning. Authorities say an electrical short in an overhead light caused a small fire in the school library.
Students were evacuated to the high school gym as a precaution.
The problem light was removed, and students were allowed to return to class around 12:30 Tuesday afternoon.
Bryan County fire
A grass fire also burned Tuesday in Bryan County near Mead.
The property owner says he saw the wind knock down a telephone pole, causing a spark that started a fire around 12:30 Tuesday afternoon at his house on Leavenworth Trail near Mead.
Firefighters from West Bryan County, Silo, and Durant helped put the fire out.
Officials say the fire was contained to the grass, but it damaged some areas of fence and hay bales. They say the wind and downed power lines made for a full day of fighting fires and that the last time they had a day like this was about two years ago.
"Today has been a crazy, crazy day, with the wind blowing 30 to 40 miles per hour with gusts up to 50. The humidity levels have been low, in the 25 to 30 degree range, and grass fires have just been going crazy today," Durant Fire Chief Steve Dow said.
The owner says the fire damaged about 40 acres of land, but says fortunately his horses and house were not damaged.
Ratliff City fire
In Ratliff City, another fire is burning in the Wild Horse Bottom area. Crews are responding.
Approximately 1,200 acres were scorched between Waurika and Claypool on Tuesday.
The fire started around 7 a.m. a mile and a half east of Waurika on Highway 70. It took fifteen fire departments seven hours to put out the flames.
Fire Chief Johnny Berry says his department also lost a newly refurbished fire truck. He says crews were driving through heavy smoke and ran into a piece of construction equipment.
Building collapses in Bonham
At the Old Peeler Building in Bonham, the south wall actually collapsed just after 10:30 Tuesday morning due to high winds.
That structure is located on Highway 76 near Main Street.
No injuries have been reported.
Power outages in Sherman and Denison
The wind is to blame for power outages in downtown Sherman. Several traffic lights along Houston, Lamar, and Travis Streets were out.
The police and fire departments had to manually direct traffic. Both agencies were without power at last check and were having to run off of back-up generators.
Police warn with high winds there could be a number of outages across the city.
Police say at no time were radio communication lost and that 911 services have not been affected.
Several homes in Denison were without power for some time Tuesday afternoon.
Vacant house fire, 600 block of Austin St., Sherman
A house goes up in flames in the 600 block of Austin Street behind the Herald Democrat in Sherman.
The house was vacant and being renovated.
The homeowners say they were measuring for blinds when they noticed smoke. By the time they made it out, the house was up in flames.
The homeowners say there were no chemicals or any furniture inside.
The home is a total loss.
Twenty-five acres burned in Tioga off Heart Lane. As of 1:45, that fire was out and firefighters cleared to the scene.
Cooke Co. fires
Cooke County authorities worked a number of fires as well on Tuesday.
Witnesses say the wind blew a tree over, pulling a power line down that caught the grass on fire at FM 902 and 3092 near Gainesville.
Also south of Lake Kiowa, a grass fire started and took off. It burned 45 to 50 acres in a neighborhood near FM 372 and County Road 2261.
Fire Chief Joe Rider says 12 to 14 homes were threatened, but they still have no cause.
"The homeowners had three fire departments helping. No one got hurt, and we didn't lose anything except grass," he said.
Fire officials in Cooke County worked at least five fires in all on Tuesday.
From the Associated Press
Wind-driven wildfires breaking out across Texas
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) - High winds across parts of Texas today have fueled wildfires that destroyed homes, forced evacuations and caused airport delays.
Fast-moving fires have destroyed at least five homes in Wise County and are threatening homes in some Fort Worth neighborhoods.
Other blazes have been reported in the Gainesville area in Cooke County.
Some fires in the Fort Worth area were caused by downed power lines, which also knocked out power to thousands of customers in several nearby cities.
Dozens of flights were delayed at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport due to strong winds.
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