POSSUM KINGDOM FIRES - April 14 – 17, 2011 

As a service to our community, we are gathering all reports on property conditions and fire status that are EYEWITNESS accounts only from credible sources – all reports are date and time stamped with the most recent being the first entry.  If you have comments, or have information to add that you have personally witnessed, please email fires@ponderapk.com - Be sure to include your name and contact info.  Thanks!  

To track the fires, go to this map and click on the box on the left that says "Fire" (under Map Controls).

Click here to see pictures from around the lake.

4/17/11 at 11:05 pm

Shawn Gibson, from Gaines Bend Developement, reports that he went out to check on the fire behind Bluff Creek.  He can no longer see flames on that hill.  He can see a glow behind it though.  His assessment is that it would appear that the fire has moved to the NW away from the Bluff Creek area.

He also reports that he is seeing very large flames WSW from his position, which would be beyond the Camp Constantine peninsula.  He believes this is the Hog Bend area in general.  He can see flames shooting at least 100 feet into the air, which he estimates is 3 miles away. 

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4/17/11 at 10:20 pm

John Schuster reports that he spoke to Jay Guy in Sportsmans' World a few minutes ago.  There are NO fires in Sportsman's World at this time.

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4/17/11 at 10:16 pm

Heard from friends in Wichita Falls that the TV station there is reporting fire in The Cliffs Resort.  Called Ric & Linda Hayward who are in The Cliffs and they say this is simply NOT TRUE.  Ric and Linda have ventured out a few times this evening to check all through The Cliffs - everything appears okay there at this time.

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4/17/11 at 9:55 pm

One of our agents, Jo Lynn Miller, lives up on PK's north end.  She reported at 9:27 pm that fires have not crossed FM 2353 to the lake side anywhere so far as she can tell.  Rock Creek and River Road are still okay.  Fire at Hills Above PK looks to be bigger and may be on the lake side of 16 (we have also heard this from other people).  ### 

4/17/11 at 9:52 pm

Jim Trester of Plano, sent this in at 9:00 pm - Just got back to our home in Plano and checked our lake cameras. We are on the Peninsula facing south off Hamilton drive (mile marker 48).  One camera faces south across the lake. Can see a large fire across the lake towards the Hogs Bend area. Too dark to tell what is on fire but appears to be a large fire and moving east along the lake. Can also see small embers flashing in front of our camera.

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4/17/11 at 9:48 pm

The following was reported by our friend, Husley Smith, at approximately 8:44 pm:

I am in the Ranch at PK and have been up on the top mountains all day running "Weldon Ranch Command and Control" as we have been jokingly calling it...we have been feeding reports to The Foreman of the Kimberlin Ranch and monitoring for possible eminent threats to The Weldon Ranch House etc. Winds were 20+ all afternoon, and dying down now from where we are up on the bluffs.
 

I can report that the Air Tankers have been making multiple runs to help contain the fire directly east of 2353 (PK Airport) which is has been and still is burning north very aggressively between 16, 36 and 2353. McAdams Peak and the Cross burned this afternoon especially on the north and east sides. Air Tankers are to thank for saving Graham Savings and Loan as well as Mr. C's. They made runs all afternoon to stop the back burning and save the homes on the west side of 2353 toward the PK airport. If the fire would have made it down the west side of McAdams...it would have all burned. The wind is dying down now but flames can still be seen from our perch high on the bluffs. This is no where near over from our view and if the wind shifts from the southeast or east it will be disastrous.

We can see to the south (and west) and GB does look to be safe for tonight as the fires are still quite a way west and south.  Smoke has been down right oppressive at times, especially when the winds shifted to come from 270.
 
The National Guard has been using Blackhawks in two aircraft teams until just about an hour ago to battle the fires to the east of 16 north and east of The Kimberlin Ranch. These fires seem to be the most threatening to the Harbor, and The Ranch. From our view so long as the winds stay from 180 to 270 all will be alright.

It is a Lookout fire at the moment...which means it seems that only the air tankers are making progress...everyone else just LOOKOUT...and stay out of the way...as there is not much you can do with 15-25+ winds.

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Thanks Hulsey, for such a thorough report! Be safe.

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4/17/11 at 9:44 pm

According to Jon Schuster (who is monitoring Sportsman's World cameras remotely from a safe place in Mineral Wells) - "I can see flames across Bluff Creek.  It looks like across from Bluff Creek Marina.  It looks like the flames are on the ranch land acros the creek from the Marina."

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4/17/11 at 9:06 pm

Marsha Bettis, West Side Update: The big danger today was from the fires at the State Park and the risk of them jumping the lake and hitting west side again.  All of west side was notified (door to door) of the risk and told of escape route to Ivan as there was a fire between the lake and Graham that made 1287 impassable.  The south winds brought lots of ash from the big fire at the State Park but no fire and no areas were evacuated.   The fire is calming down at the State Park and winds are calming now too.there are still fires north of the lake around Graham so the only safe way out of the west side now remains to be the road to Ivan (or by water which is the way most of us that stayed plan to go if we have to)

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4/17/11 at 8:34 pm

Sue Walls reports on Caddo:  Paul Pulliam of the Paradise Ranch situated above Caddo says that there have been several houses along Brandy Road that have burned, and several more are on fire.  The firefighters were running up and down Brandy Road and doing the best they could.

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4/17/11 at 8:21 pm

Cheyenne Wuthrich reports areas evacuated south of her (in Graham) include:  Wildcatter, Bunger, Salem Loop and Dark Canyon RV Park.  The Pitcock Edition was on alert, but has been taken off for now (according to radio reports she is listening to). 

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4/17/11 at 8:14 pm
Shawn Gibson of Gaines Bend Development reports that flames can now be seen from Gaines Bend.  They are behind the Sportsman's World condos at Bluff Creek (this does NOT mean the flames are in SW yet, they are likely on the other side of the Condos from the Gaines Bend perspective).  He thinks it is roughly 2.5 to 3 miles from the west cliff line in Gaines Bend.  Shawn says if the wind direction maintains, it won't come toward Gaines Bend right now.  If the wind changes to Southwesterly though, it might.
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4/17/11 at 8:08 pm
Steve Anderson just spoke to Monty Magness, Sales Manager in The Hills Above PK.  Monty reports that they think theyhave lost 4 to 5 homes there.
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4/17/11 at 7:30 pm

Scott Parrish reports his house in Hog Bend has burned to the ground.  He also reports that the State Park HQ also burned.  

Sandy Thoma reports that she thinks the fire has slipped southwest of her home there in Sportsman's World, which is the third ranch on the left inside of the Sportsman's World gate.

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4/17/11 at 7:30 pm

Per John Schuster - Sportsman's World resident - John is monitoring the security cameras at SW from his perch in Mineral Wells.  He has three sites with multiple cameras:  Front gates, trash facility and pavilion.  He is also in discussion with several other people.  From what he understands and can see on the cameras, there are NO fires in Sportsmans's World at this time.  There is alot of smoke around SW, however.  

A woman from the Forest Service just drove through and checked structures - there is NO loss in Sportsman's World at this time.  Roy Davis and Jay Guy are still in SW cutting tree limbs, creating fire breaks with bulldozers, etc.  

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4/17/11 at 7:20 pm

Had to relocate out of Gaines Bend on Judge's court order!  Sorry for the delay in postings.  On the drive out, we headed north on Hwy 16, connecting with 254 - headed toward Mineral Wells.  The cottages were fine, the speedway was fine, fire has burnt both sides of the road until you get somewhat past the Catholic Church.  Traffic is stopped near the old Quicksilver building on 254.  No one can get past that point.  We saw fires flaring on the left side of the road (northwest) right past the Catholic Church.  That church was spared with fire going right up to the lawn and about 15 ft from the building.

Tim Allen, GB resident, reports that the fires are closing in on Hogs Bend and one home is on fire in the first cove west of Bluff Creek, and three others look like they are about to start on fire.  He says that fire is very long and it looks like most of Hogs Bend could be burnt soon.

Tim believes that GB will be fine for today and there's not much flare-up around Sportsman's World so he thinks they might be okay for today as well.  The winds are down a little and the big fires don't appear to be as bad.

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4/17/11 at 4:15 pm
Lake Country Sun: Word is that the road from the Bunger Y, in Graham, to the Young-Stephens county line is closed and that all residents on either side of the road are being evacuated.

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4/17/11 at 4:14 pm
Marsha Bettis: Fox Hollow is NOT evacuating. Marsha is at her home on the west side and can see Fox.

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4/17/11 at 3:46 pm
UNCONFIRMED: From what we can tell from the scanner, they have lost the fire at the Set Ranch. All resources are being pulled off to focus on other areas.

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4/17/11 at 3:25 pm
Ric and Linda Hayward were out and about driving around and can confirm at this point the PK Speedway and Cottages are still there unharmed for now.

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4/17/11 at 3:15 pm
From the Graham Leader: Evacuate Bunger now.

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4/17/11 at 3:16 pm

IMPORTANT!!! County Judge David Nicklas has just signed a Proclamation ordering a MANDATORY EVACUATION of basically everything around PK except the west side.  That means all residents in The Cliffs, Gaines Bend and Sportsman's World are now under court order to vacate, as is the Peninsula area. 

And ... according to Shawn Gibson, Gary (from Gaines Bend) spoke to a DPS officer at Whataburger who said Gaines Bend was not in direct threat at the moment, but the fires toward Strawn may be a threat for us tomorrow.  

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4/17/11 at 3:00 pm

County Judge David Nicklas has ordered the evacuation of the town of Strawn and everything south of PK Lake and west of Highway 16. 

Enforcement officers are going door to door in Golden Cove, Frontier Unit, Lower Burma and Trail Ridge for evacuation purposes. 

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4/17/11 at 2:53 pm

According the the LCS, flames were visible in the field across from the North 40 (convenience store on FM 2353). 

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4/17/11 at 2:45 pm

UNCONFIRMED, but it sounds like the Peninsula may be getting evacuated from the chatter on the scanner.

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4/17/11 at 2:35 pm

According to the Lake Country Sun, an official information officer has reported that they are currently evacuating everything south of PK and west of 16 (Strawn).  PK West fire = 22,000 acres, 25% contained; PK East fire - 0% contained; Hohhertz fire = 6,000 acres, 40% contained; Jackson Ranch (west of Strawn) = 6000 acres, 0% contained.

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4/17/11 at 2:30 pm 

According to Mike Powell (via Sandy Thoma), fire is now at the back of the Thoma-Borden fenceline in Sportsman's World. Firefighters now in Sportsman's World.

A lot of ash flying around Gaines Bend.

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4/17/11 at 2:07 pm

If anyone wants to listen to the DPS scanner for Palo Pinto County online, they can access it here

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4/17/11 at 2:00 pm

According to the DPS scanner, Strawn is being evacuated now.

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4/17/11 at 1:30 pm

Regarding the fire at 180 & 16 - winds have shifted to the southwest which improves the situation as far as Sportsman's World, Gaines Bend and The Cliffs is concerned.  This means the fire will push more toward Hwy 16 and not so much in the direct line of the subdivisions.

The bigger concern for firefighters at the moment is at McAdam's Peak and that general area.  All businesses and residences north of Mr. C's has been evacuated and extending up into the upper north end - Rock Creek, etc.

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4/17/11 at 1:06 pm

It is slow going for evacuees.  Route is through Graham.

Backfires are being lit along 2353 about 300 yards from the Chamber.  

North End is being evacuated including Rock Creek, Butler Road area, etc.

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4/17/11 at 12:40 pm

Evacuated traffic is now stopped at the Speedway due to fires up ahead.

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4/17/11 at 12:30 pm

Hwy 16 is shut down at the Catholic Church.  DPS says they will be shutting down 254 from Graford to the Lake.  That has been confirmed by a DPS officer.

Gaines Bend is being evacuated, although many are staying.

The fire at McAdams Peak is strong.  The businesses at the 4-way stop have been evacuated, including Mr. C's and Pondera East Sales Office.  According to Steve Anderson, it looks like the fire is slowing making its way down the ridge to the area behind Graham S&L.  

Per Carolyn Land in Rock Creek Camp, it has jumped 16 headed north toward the Hills Above.  

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4/17/11 at 10:55 am 

Mert Fewell reports that 16 from SW south is blocked off on 16.  Several tankers, bulldozers and fire response units from Lone Camp, Valley Mills, Meridian ... total of 5 companies, are heading into Sportsman's World.  They reported that the fire is west of the storage units at Brad and is heading northwesterly.  

Sheriff cars are posted at Sportsman's World and Gaines Bend. They are going to start evacuations again in both communities.

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4/17/11 at 10:30 am

According to Barbara Gibson, it appears the fire response crews are staging now out of Sportsman's World. Whatever they were doing at Brad is about an hour late, although they are trying hard.  The change in the strength of the wind is phenomenal.

 
4/17/11 at 9:55 am

Shawn Gibson reports that the fire behind the storage buildings at 180 and 16 are very big again and firefighters are on the scene working it.  16 is still open at 180, but not sure for how long. 

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4/17/11 at 9:55 am

The following is reported by Shawn Gibson from Gaines Bend Development – "I just got back from a run up to Brad.  Fore those of you that got blocked out of GB, the road blocks at Brad are gone for now.  I turned east toward Breckenridge and drove back to the historic Cedar Springs Church.  It has completely burned, absolutely nothing left.  The fire was so hot as it crossed 180 there that it curled up one of the aluminum road signs.  There is an active fire burning behind the storage units at Brad.  No firefighters are there at all.  They must not consider it a threat.  I saw no signs that the Set Ranch fire has advanced.  Lots of smoke though and the wind has kicked up.  I don't think the fire at Brad is a threat to Gaines Bend, but that Set Ranch fire is another matter."

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4/17/11 at 9:50 am

Mark Anderson is at 180 & 16 now.   He said there are several small fires north of 180 and winds are mostly blowing to the North.   

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4/17/11 at 9:34 am

This is update from Sheriff's office:  Right now all roads are open.  The fire is fixing to jump the road (they think) at the Baptist Church where it burned down, so its coming back toward the Peninsula.

Winds have just picked up.  According to Johna Nicklas on the Peninsula, smoke and associated smells are in the air again over there so something is brewing.  

Reports from Strawn indicate the fire is only 10% contained.  West side fire has merged with the Strawn fire and firefighters are very frustrated.   

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4/17/11 at 9:30 am

If you have stayed behind in SW, GB and The Cliffs - high winds could put our neighborhoods in the path of the fire today.  Here are some tips shared by our west side neighbors who survived a horrendous fire situation Thursday night:

  • Lower your boat from its lift!  If you lose electricity, you will not be able to lower it, so do it now and tie it up.
  • Gather up your water hoses and string them together now, before you need them.  You'll want a long reach if the fire comes near your home.  Hook them up to city water - if you lose electricity, your lake pump will not work.
  • Turn on all your sprinklers outside and let them run.
  • Get a ladder and a water hose and wet your roof.
  • Pack a bag with your most precious things and a change of clothes - have them ready to grab if you need to jump in your boat.
  • Make sure life jackets are where you can grab them and keep them in or near the boat.
  • Find your flashlights and batteries and get them organized now.  Gather your candles.  Put it all in one place so you know where to find them.
  • If you can get a bag of ice in your freezer, put one in there.   Have some bottled water handy.

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4/17/11 at 9:18 am

According to the Lake Country Sun, they have an update from PK East Fire Chief Ronnie Ranft that all roads are now open (however that can change).

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4/17/11 at 8:30 am

Per Ric Hayward from his perch in The Cliffs - The glows from the fires have not moved noticeably from late last night.  The sprinklers on the golf course have been on all night so they have dampened the fire breaks throughout the resort.  

Shawn Gibson (from Gaines Bend) went out at 5 am this morning and drove around checking out the fire situation.  He said there was a definite "glow" that can be seen from the Set Ranch area.  No visible flames, but Shawn could see bright lights like they may have a command post set up there.  He drove to Brad and there were no visible flames from Hwy 16.  The storage units (Freedom Storage) are still there and looked okay.  The real danger to Gaines Bend is from the Set Ranch which is 3-4 miles from Gaines Bend.  At present winds are out of the South at 8 mph.  Forecast is for 28% humidity today and winds out of the South at 21 mph - not good, but not as bad as Friday.

West Side report from Marsha Bettis – All is quiet there.  Not nearly as smoky this morning, the radio is quiet and everhing seems to be under control over there.

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4/16/11 at 11:30 pm

Per Alan Fires - The PK Lion Club will be cooking breakfast for firefighters at the Lions Club Bldg starting at 8 am tomorrow (Sunday) morning.  We're sure they could use some help over there!

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4/16/11 at 11 pm

According to Mike & Susan Rhoden who left Gaines Bend heading for Austin - at the intersection of Hwy 180 and 16, the fire has jumped across 180 and is burning behind the Freedom Storage buildings.  They headed east and saw many fires burning on the south side of the road between Hwy 16 North and Hwy 16 South (which goes to Strawn).  They could not turn down S 16.  They could not turn on 919 (which heads to Gordon).   

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4/16/11 at 10:46 pm

The following has been submitted from Amanda Sullivan:  There are two occupied homes that DID burn in addition to the two we previously reported.  One was at the base of Larimore Hill, although I can't remember their names, and the other is Letha Cook who is off of CR 331/332.

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4/16/11 at 10:53 pm

From Johna Nicklas:  Just drove down FM2951 to Sandy Beach & Bug Beach. Fires burning all along the horizon looking over towards Set Ranch & Sportsmans World. 
 
The fire at Park Rd 36 & Hwy 16 is still glowing but according to sherffis deputies has just about burned itself out.
They said it has kind of burned in a circle with the wind shifts  and there is no much left to burn. So things are looking good from the 4 way stop and the cross is lit on McAdams Peak. Good nite, try and get some sleep because I think our biggest challenge will be tomorrow. 

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4/16/11 at 8:30 pm

Sportsman's World, Gaines Bend and The Cliffs are all under voluntary evacuations.  Concern is escape routes may not be available later.   

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There is NO fire in GB righit now, nor is there one in The Cliffs.  The fire at 180 & 16 (Brad) is moving North and with winds from the south, it means it can move into the direction of these subdivisions.  With high winds forecasted for tomorrow, it may be impossible to evacuate these neighborhoods later on.  

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4/16/11 at 6:20 pm

According to the Lake Country Sun, "Maintainers" are cutting fire breaks on the east side of FM 2353.  

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4/16/11 at 6:10 pm

According to Pam Anderson, Hwy 16 closed at Catholic Church.  Trooper turned her around to get home through Palo Pinto, but she was turned away at 180 near Gordon cutoff.  Trooper said flames were visible across from PK Speedway down to Kimberlin Ranch.

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4/16/11 at 5:40 pm

As reported by Lisa Hester, Mel decided to stay open to help firefighters with water and gas.  The Whataburger is CLOSED. The old, abandoned restaurant on South side of 180 is burning.  Firefighters are letting it burn so they can conserve firefighting resources to save the structures on the North side (storage units, house, etc.).  

At this time, Hwy 180 is CLOSED going West; still open going EAST, but there is talk on the scanner about closing down 180 to Eastbound traffic. 

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4/16/11 at 5:30 pm 

According to Steve Anderson who is driving in now, Southbound Hwy 16 (as you are approaching the lake from the east) is closed near the Catholic Church.  To get to PK South end you must take Hwy North (toward Graham) and turn left on FM 2353.  You can connect with Hwy 16 South right before the turn to go around Kimberlin Mountain.

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4/16/11 at 4:30 pm

According to Johna Nicklas, Issues on PK East Side have flared up (near the Peninsula and on PK North End).  Willow Road and McGinnis Point are evacuated. Airport Road has not officially been evacuated yet, but it could be any time.  A fire is burning on the hill behind the storage buildings near Groves Mechanical.  If you are standing at the 4-way stop looking toward the PK Speedway (about 2 miles away), black smoke can be seen in that direction.  Further north and east (to the left) other fires are starting back up.  

 
Fire trucks have arrived from Blum and Joshua along with four BIG Catepillars.  Several Sheriff Deputies and BRA cars are parked in front of Graham Savings & Loan.  Park Road 36 going down the Peninsula is still OPEN.  Park Road 36 going from the 4-way stop to the racetrack is CLOSED.  Hwy 2353 is completely open at this time.
 
Helicopters are pulling water from the lake and dumping on fires in this vicinity.  Fire is also reported across from the Cottages on Hwy 16. 
 
It appears the National Guard has arrived with several large pieces of equipment.   
 
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4/16/11 at 4:30 pm

Caddo Creek area - Sue Walls talked to some folks who are on Brandy Road.  The back part of Caddo Creek has a pretty big fire.  The wind is blowing fire North toward the houses.  Paradise Ranch at the top of the bluff burned, but the house didn't.  Spot fires from top of Brandy Rd are still smoking.

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4/16/11 at 2 pm

Johna Nicklas and Reese Curfew, both Pondera Properties agents, just finished checking on Caddo area - this is their report: There are still some hot spots; no cabins have burned there as far as they can tell. The ridge line behind Brandy Rd has hot spots that the Fire Dept is trying to take care of. There are still fires burning on the other side of Caddo Creek (the Set Ranch area). Firefighters seem to be keeping those fairly well contained at present. There is no electricity in the Caddo area, but they have phone service. If the wind changes, it could get serious there again, but for now all appears to be well under control. There is still fire burning pretty strong behind the State Park. 

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4/16/11 at 1 pm

Our Managing Broker, Marsha Bettis, lives and works on PK's west side.  She remained in her home throughout the last few days, taking calls from homeowners and clients and trying to keep everyone updated as best she could.  She continues doing that today, even though things have calmes down considerably.  Today she went driving around and reports the following

•Nothing past Grady's Liquor Store and the Pondera West office on Hwy 1148 was 

•involved in the fire at all. 

•None of the west side businesses were damaged.

•Everything on Chapel Rd is fine EXCEPT two homes at the end of that road 

•which were lost (one was Marsha's former residence).

•All lakefront homes in Stephen's County appear to be fine.  

•Bailey's Camp did NOT burn.

•None of the homes on Bailey's Rd appear to have burned.

•Nothing on CR 331 or in that area burned as far as she can tell. 

•What DID burn is mostly ranch land and the area up to some lake homes burned, 

•but as far as she can tell, no lake homes were lost other than the two on Chapel.

•Foster Simmons did not die as has been reported by some.  Foster is a volunteer firefighter.  

•(There was, however, a firefighter with the same last name lost fighting a fire near Eastland - 

•thoughts and prayers go out to his family and community).

•We have someone heading to Caddo by boat and we will be able to report on that area later today. 

•Fire is OUT on the west side by the lake.

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