Despite the concerted efforts of dozens of state and federal firefighters, a wind-whipped wildfire that has raged for days in North Texas and grown to more than 40,000 acres roared through Possum Kingdom State Park Sunday afternoon, burning 90 percent of the 1,500-acre park. No one was injured and no structures were lost, though minor damage to one cabin and linen building was reported.
A strike team, assisted by Texas State Park firefighters, battled the inferno most of the weekend, managing to protect park facilities and two residential communities adjacent to the park, which is located about 70 miles west of Fort Worth in Palo Pinto County. Agencies fighting the fire included TPWD, Texas Forest Service and U.S. Forest Service firefighters, assisted by Smokey Bear Hotshots and National Guard Blackhawk helicopters.
As the fire raced through the park shortly after 2 p.m. Sunday, non-essential personnel boarded boats at the park boat ramp and retreated to the safety of 20,000-acre Possum Kingdom Lake, according to Jeff Sparks, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department’s state parks wildland fire program manager. The fire front moved past the park, but Sparks says firefighters remain on the scene mopping up and monitoring the situation due to the possibility of a re-ignition in thick juniper canopies.
The PK West Fire that hit Possum Kingdom State Park at one point had threatened 200 homes and destroyed 31 residences near the lake. By Sunday afternoon, the Texas Forest Service reported the PK West Fire in Stephens County had burned into Palo Pinto County’s Hohertz Fire and remained uncontained. It is one of dozens of wildfires affecting more than a million acres across Texas. As a result, Gov. Rick Perry this morning asked for a federal disaster declaration for Texas.
Last week, the Rockhouse Fire in the Davis Mountains of West Texas burned 675 acres within Davis Mountains State Park. Only minimal damage to park structures was reported. Historic Indian Lodge escaped damage. The state park remains a base of operation for hundreds of firefighters battling the Rockhouse Fire that has consumed 187,000 acres in Presidio and Jeff Davis Counties. It was reported Sunday as being 70 percent contained.
Two other Texas state parks being threatened by wildfires – San Angelo State Park and Lake Arrowhead State Park near Wichita Falls – so far, have stayed out of harm’s way.
With more than 80 percent of the Wichita County Complex Fire contained as of Saturday, it appeared Lake Arrowhead State Park was safe from any fire threat, although firefighters were setting up to protect Sheppard Air Force Base.
San Angelo State Park, however, remains under threat as the Wildcat Fire had quadrupled in size over the weekend to more than 125,000 acres and was only 10 percent contained. San Angelo State Park firefighters were called to assist with the fire approximately 15 miles northwest of the state park.
Texas wildfire danger remains extreme due to persistent drought and windy conditions. On Saturday, the Texas Forest Services responded to 28 new fires burning almost 15,000 acres. Burn bans are in effect in 195 Texas counties.
TFS reminds everyone to:
Obey outdoor burn bans. Don’t burn trash or debris when conditions are dry or windy.
Keep lawn mowers and agricultural equipment in proper working condition and avoid rocks and other materials which might cause a spark.
To report suspicious activities, call the Arson Hotline at (888) 501-3850.
Humans cause more than 90 percent of all wildfires. Do not weld or cut without a spotter, a water source and a shovel.