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Houston Chronicle

Houston Chronicle

HOUSTON & TEXAS 

States prepare for possibility of more grass fires
All Oklahoma counties in state of emergency; Texas assessing losses
By ERIC O’KEEFE New York Times
Jan. 1, 2006

DALLAS - Officials in Oklahoma and Texas continued to assess losses from this week's grass fires Saturday and were preparing for the possibility of more blazes because of a forecast of high winds, low humidity, and unseasonably warm temperatures for next week.

In Oklahoma, where all 77 counties are in a state of emergency, Gov. Brad Henry took an aerial tour of fire-ravaged areas in the central and southern parts of the state on Saturday afternoon. Afterward, he toured Bryan County, where 10,000 acres were destroyed, and joined state and local officials on a walking tour in the town of Achille, the site of 10 burned homes.

Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency for the entire state and requested an emergency disaster declaration from President Bush on Friday.

Firefighting teams from Alabama and Tennessee were heading to Oklahoma on Saturday afternoon to assist hard-pressed local firefighters. Contingents from Florida and North Carolina were also en route, said Oklahoma Emergency Management spokeswoman Michaelann Ooten.

The state's Agriculture, Food and Forestry Department has set aside $1.5 million for rural fire departments to offset the cost of fighting fires that have already consumed more than 25,000 acres statewide and destroyed more than 80 homes and businesses.

More than 220 homes have been destroyed in Texas, where Gov. Rick Perry declared a state of emergency and requested an emergency disaster declaration from Bush on Tuesday.

Officials in Texas have implemented a variety of strategies to minimize the threat of wildfires.

In Fort Worth, Tarrant County Judge Tom Vandergriff issued an executive order on Friday banning the outdoor use of all combustibles, including fireworks, grilling and welding, for the next seven days. The order augments a 3-month outdoor burn ban that was approved by commissioner's court on Nov. 8, one of 175 countywide burn bans enacted statewide.

In Tarrant County, the city of Colleyville is offering a rebate to residents who water their yards and other landscaping during the New Year's weekend.