By Christie Post - email
MATADOR, TX (KCBD) – Overnight and into the early morning hours, people in Matador got to go back home, after authorities evacuated the town of about 750 Sunday afternoon.
The fire Chief said they estimate 40,000 acres burned in five hours. "At first it just looked like it was dust. And when the smoke came in it was just kind of crazy," said Justin Newman, Matador resident.
Sunday night people in town couldn't see 25 feet in front of them. It looked like an orange glow that lit up the fields around Motley County. Within fifteen minutes from when the fire started, officials had a judge issue a disaster declaration.
"It blew past my house last night. There are small fires going around it and my wife and friends are there working on it," said Craig Turner, Assistant Chief Matador Volunteer Fire Department.
Monday officials said the fire is under control, although hot spots remain. Two houses were damaged but none were destroyed. Outside of town, small structures such as trailers, equipment and some cars were burned.
Right now firefighters are still working to combat the fire that has been going on for nearly 24 hours. More than 16 fire departments and 160 firefighters have come to fight the fire from the ground and sky. "They are spotting for us and seeing things we can't see," said Turner.
"We are trying to cut guards around the fire and it's pretty difficult because of the terrain coming right off of the caprock," said Lee James, Fire Chief Matador Volunteer Fire Department.
So far fire officials have used more than 300,000 gallons of water filling up seven tankers traveling back and forth.
"This fire is moving so fast water can't handle it. We're using dozers and maintainers to cut fire guards and we're fighting it off the fire guards with the trucks to try and stop it," said Turner.
Some firefighters are working in 12 hour shifts while others have been going for close to 24 hours. Their goal is to keep people out of harm's way.
"Life first, everything else can be replaced. That's kind of the way we look at it," said James.
Fire officials said the initial call about the fire came from a ditch at the roadside park near the Floyd and Motley County Lines. But they will continue to investigate how it sparked.
"We are fortunate we didn't lose any houses. We lost some out buildings and some equipment. We consider ourselves very fortunate. We were able to stop the head fire going east and now we have the north winds. So we are working on the south side of the fire and now we have people working on the north front," said Turner.
The Matador Fire Department hopes the fire will be contained in the coming days.
The Motley County Independent School District canceled classed Monday, but they will continue classes Tuesday.
Copyright 2011 KCBD. All rights reserved.