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Large Grass Fire in Texas Burns Out of Control; Dozens of Homes Destroyed

February 22, 1996 GMT

POOLVILLE, Texas (AP) _ Hampered by whipping winds and temperatures heading back into the 90s, firefighters worked today to contain a 23,000-acre grass fire that has destroyed dozens of homes and injured at least 18 people.

The fire that spread Tuesday came on top of 25,000 acres of grassland that have burned across the state earlier this month, fed by unseasonably hot weather, wind and tinderlike conditions.

Gov. George W. Bush made state workers, National Guard helicopters and heavy equipment available to fight the blaze.

The fire was 40 percent contained by early today, Department of Public Safety Cpl. Bobby Hart said from an emergency command post.

The worst fires were near the small town of Poolville, 35 miles northwest of Fort Worth. At least 16 firefighters and two residents were injured in the Poolville area blaze, which still burned out of control.

``We’re not talking acres, we’re talking miles,″ Parker County Sheriff Ben Whiteman said. ``We’ve lost houses. We’ve lost trailers. We’ve lost barns. We’ve lost deer camps.″

The Poolville blaze has destroyed at least 45 houses and 12 trailer homes, officials said.

Wayne Richardson soaked his yard with buckets of water as the fire approached his home north of Poolville. Firefighters sprayed homes in the neighborhood with water, but his was one of only a couple that were spared.

``I don’t know why I was so lucky,″ Richardson said. ``I guess I just got picked.″

Neighbor Sandra McCamon, a retired insurance adjuster who had just moved to Poolville, lost everything. She was gone when the fire started.

``I guess I won’t be putting my mailbox out anytime soon,″ McCamon said.

Highs Wednesday soared to 103 degrees at Laughlin Air Force Base, the nation’s highest. Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport had reached 94 degrees, breaking the mark of 84 set in 1925. Nine other cities had records in the high 90s.

Officials instituted a ban on outdoor burning across about a fourth of the state. They also warned of automobiles sparking dry grass, motorists tossing cigarettes or matches, and arson.

Near Aubrey, a small town 35 miles north of Dallas, wildfires destroyed five houses and three outbuildings, causing about $500,000 in damage. About 300 acres were charred.

``We didn’t lose anything that can’t be replaced _ our lives,″ Aubrey Fire Chief Garland Wilson said. ``We won.″