TX, OK residents in shock

The emotional state in Cross Plains, Texas, is one of shock.

BY HEATHER MOYER | CROSS PLAINS, Texas | December 30, 2005

The emotional state in Cross Plains, Texas, is one of shock, said a local church member Friday.

With wildfires having burnt more than 60 homes in the community, residents are reeling. "People are wondering what do we do next? Some are staying with friends in the meantime, but until they have homes - they don't have much," said Helen Parsons, secretary at First Baptist Church in Cross Plains.

First Baptist Church has been serving as a shelter since Tuesday, the day grassfires started raging through the community. Extremely dry conditions and high winds helped the fires spread, with several quickly overwhelming some neighborhoods. Two deaths are being blamed on the fires in Cross Plains alone. Another person died in Cooke County.

Fire also burned Cross Plain's First United Methodist Church, where parishioners had been planning to celebrate the church's 120th anniversary this Sunday.

Firefighters have made progress against the blazes since Thursday, but officials worry a weekend of forecasted high winds will make the situation worse again. In the meantime, volunteers at First Baptist are making sure families get what they need for now. Parsons said local restaurants are donating food and others are preparing meals. American Red Cross workers are also meeting with affected families.

"Anybody that comes in can find something to do here," said Parsons, adding that many of the volunteers are not members of First Baptist.

Fires are burning in Texas' Titus, Cooke, Callahan, Wise, Hood, Red River and Llano counties. Across Texas and Oklahoma, wildfires have burned almost 200 homes since Tuesday. The entire region is in a severe drought.

In Oklahoma, the state emergency management agency reports that more than 80 homes and businesses have burned. Officials report wildfires in 22 counties across the state. One death is being blamed on the fires in Hughes County. Some of the most severe damage has been in Seminole County, where fires burned 50 homes.

The weekend forecast in Oklahoma bodes the same as Texas - with a possibility of more high winds and no precipitation.

With the forecast not improving much for both states in the next seven days, residents say they are handling the situation as best they can.

"Everyone is doing their best to cope with what's coming," said Parsons. We're just going day by day."

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