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Tx wildfire burns acres unchecked

Fire has destroyed two homes and may be a preview of what's to come says official

AUSTIN, Texas (UPI) | April 10, 2011

A 71,000-acre wildfire burning uncontained Saturday in northern Texas may be a preview of what's to come, the state Forest Service said.

Fire experts say Sunday could bring a mix of dry brush after long-term drought with warm weather and high winds that would make for the worst fire conditions in the history of the state, the Austin American-Statesman reported. The National Weather Service predicted conditions similar to those on April 9, 2009, when regional wildfires in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas left four people dead and gutted 111 houses.

The Swanson fire, which began Wednesday, has consumed parts of three counties and burned two houses in the Panhandle, the Forest Service said. Alan Craft, a spokesman for the agency, called it "zero percent contained" Saturday.

Craft urged everyone to be careful, avoiding anything that could set grass or brush alight. He said even something like dragging a piece of metal or chain across a road might create a spark.

Winds were predicted to be 30 to 35 mph Sunday with gusts up to 50 mph. Craft said small aircraft used for firefighting cannot fly in those conditions.

Residents of the large swath of western, central and northern Texas at risk of fire have been told to prepare for evacuation. Craft said fires can move across grassy areas at 4 to 5 mph when wind speeds are in the 30s.

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