Update: Wright City fire brought under control - KYTX CBS 19 Tyler Longview News Weather Sports

Update: Wright City fire brought under control

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UPDATE: Smith County Sheriff Office have reopened all roads that have been previously closed. The firefighters plan to monitor to the area overnight to insure the blazes do not regain strength. Smith County officials said no houses were lost to the fires.

Story courtesy of the Tyler Morning Telegraph
By KENNETH DEAN and TIM MONZINGO
Staff Writers


WRIGHT CITY — Fire crews were tested once again Thursday as a fast-moving wildfire pushed east from Rusk County into Smith County, prompting evacuations and a joint effort from multiple fire departments, state and federal resources.

Smith County Fire Marshal Jim Seaton said the estimated 300- to 350-acre fire, which began on a ranch off County Road 4117 in Rusk County about 2 p.m., picked up speed due to high winds and low humidity.
"Right now, we are holding a line and keeping the fire east of these homes on County Road 2115. Now if fire gets past us, then we have a problem," he said Thursday night of a line of residences on the west side of the roadway.

Seaton said late Thursday that no injuries were reported and no structures were destroyed in the Rusk/Smith County fire. 

"We have it broken into several segments at this time and have segment commanders. We will be watching this all night to make sure it doesn't jump this road," he said.

The fire roared and trees exploded in the intense heat as a heavily wooded area ignited from embers falling onto the forest floor of dry leaves. 

While firefighters battled the blaze, Smith County Sheriff's deputies and Texas Department of Public Safety troopers evacuated County Road 2115 and blocked entrances into the area. 

One woman ran from a friend's house to her vehicle as she shouted back, "I need to get some clothes and other things. Will they let me get through?"

Moments later, the woman's vehicle disappeared in the smoke blanketing the oil-topped road as she made her way to her home at the intersection of county roads 2115 and 2116.

First United Methodist Church in Troup was initially available as a shelter for evacuees Thursday night. As of 9:45 p.m., however, only two evacuees had arrived. The shelter was moved later to First Baptist Church in Troup, a Smith County Sheriff's deputy said late Thursday.

Homes were evacuated from county roads 2115 and 2116, the deputy said. KYTX CBS19 reported about 20 homes were evacuated.

Evacuee Kay Barefield said she and neighbors rushed to grab her belongings during the evacuation.
"I just grabbed stuff and started throwing it (in the car)," she said. She retrieved jewelry, clothes, toiletries and guns before heading to the church. 

"People helped me move stuff, and I didn't even know them," she said.

There were tense moments for fire officials as U.S. Forest Service fire truck became stuck with fire quickly approaching.

Texas Forest Service Henderson Dispatcher Steve Skelton said the U.S. Forest Service vehicle and crew came to East Texas because of the recent fires.

"The crew got out safely, and no one was injured, but the fire truck was lost in the fire," he said.
Skelton said the Thursday fire consumed 300 to 350 acres and, as of 9 p.m., was about 75 percent contained.

"We're about ready to get out of here and for this day and this fire to be over," he said.

Firefighters in Smith County have been running grass and wildfires all week, and earlier they battled a 250-acre fire that claimed three homes, several other structures and multiple vehicles.

Mrs. Barefield said with all the fire activity in Texas, she never expected it to get this close to her home.

She said she was not at home when the fire broke out, but a neighbor called to let her know a brush fire was nearby. She ran home and tried to get the family's horses. She said she let the cattle on the land out of their pens so they would not be trapped.

Mrs. Barefield told KYTX CBS19 that it was "very scary, with fire going and blazing and hearing things explode."

"There's no way to stop it; (it's) just spreading wildfire all the way across," she said.

Another evacuee, Brooke Ranshaw, said she grabbed her wedding pictures, guns and computer before leaving her home, which she and her husband moved into just six weeks ago.

Mrs. Ranshaw said she was surprised when she arrived at her home that the fire was so close, ash was falling on her. 

Her husband was allowed to stay behind because he was helping fire crews cut fire lanes with his plow.
She said she was the last one in the neighborhood to evacuate.

"I don't know what I would do if I didn't have family in town," she said.

Mrs. Ranshaw, who works for CBS19, said she did not realize when the story broke how close it was to her house until her husband called. 

"I always thought I would be the one writing the stories, not being part of one," she said.

Mrs. Ranshaw and Mrs. Barefield commented on how people came together to help each other during the evacuation. 

The church's pastor, Mike Cline, said evacuees needed somewhere to go to stay away from the fire, so he opened up the church. 

"I'm hoping everybody gets to stay home, and (the fire) gets put out," Cline said. 

Sgt. Gerald Caldwell of the Smith County Sheriff's Office reported about 11:30 p.m. Thursday that fire officials would maintain fire lanes and protect property throughout the night in the area of the fire.

Caldwell said a command center was set up at county roads 2115 and 2116. 

Roads were closed in the area, but he said officials advised that when they reopen, people should minimize traffic in that area. Roads in that area include Smith County roads 2115, 2116 and 2113 as well as Rusk County roads 4117, 4116, 4114 and 4120.
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