Crews make progress against destructive Texas wildfires

An airplane drops fire retardant on a wildfire near Glen Rose, Texas, Wednesday, July 20, 2022. Officials say a mandatory evacuation order issued because of a wildfire in North Texas has been lifted although the threat of fires remains high in the state due to hot temperatures, winds and drought conditions. (AP Photo/LM Otero) (LM Otero, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Firefighting crews have progressed in their battle against two destructive North Texas wildfires, officials said Thursday.

Firefighters have expanded their containment from 15% to 50% Thursday of the 500-acre (200-kilometer) fire that destroyed five homes on Possum Kingdom Lake’s western shore, the Texas A&M Forest Service said.

“Crews are definitely getting a handle on this one!” Forest Service spokesman Adam Turner said in an email to The Associated Press. “There is a lot of mopping up left to do, but the current resources are going to keep working at it.”

The battle was aided by slightly lower temperatures topping out in the upper 90s (upper 30s Celsius) Fahrenheit with higher humidity and scattered rain.

Meantime, the Chalk Mountain Fire was still just 10% contained after charring 10 1/2 square miles (27 square kilometers) and destroying 16 homes. But the Forest Service says aerial retardant drops have reduced the fire's intensity so crews could clear fire lines on the fire zone's southern tip and along its eastern and western flanks. They began work Thursday on clearing a fire line on the northern front after focusing on protecting homes and other structures there.

Slightly more moderate temperatures in the upper 90s (upper 30s Celsius) with high humidity and the possibility of scattered rain raised hopes of a natural assist in the Chalk Mountain Fire fight. Just as important, wind gusts have diminished from 30 mph (48 kph) to 15 mph (24 kph), allowing crews to catch up with the flame spread and improve containment, said Terry Krasko, an incident management team spokesman.