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Texas wildfire destroys dozens of homes

POSSUM KINGDOM LAKE, Texas -- Residents of a subdivision in a parched North Texas wilderness area didn't hesitate when ordered to flee an advancing wildfire, and dozens who were hemmed in by flames blocking the road out escaped by boat without a single major injury, authorities said yesterday.

The wildfire that swept through the Possum Kingdom Lake area on Tuesday, one of several burning in Texas and Oklahoma, destroyed at least 39 homes and turned the normally lush landscape into a blackened mess. In one neighborhood, some streets were virtually untouched, with homes fronted by lawns that could double as putting greens, but others were reduced to rows of scorched stone fireplaces and twisted metal frames.

"It's devastating, of course, and it's going to take a while to get over, but we're going to carry on," Palo Pinto County Sheriff Ira Mercer said.

Texas Forest Service spokesman John Nichols said nine recreational vehicles have burned so far in the fire.

Only hot spots remained yesterday in the subdivision, which was the only one not affected by wildfires that roared through the Possum Kingdom Lake area in the spring, scorching hundreds of thousands of acres and destroying 160 homes. The most recent fire had burned some 6,200 acres, further devastating the popular vacation spot about 75 miles west of Fort Worth.

The fire was about 25 percent contained by evening with up to 400 homes still threatened.

Texas and Oklahoma are in the grips of a record-setting drought, and a summer of soaring temperatures and little rain has meant the wildfire season, which usually ends in spring, didn't end this year.

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