Wildfire north of Huntsville prompts evacuations

June 20, 2011 10:22:44 AM PDT
Southeast Texas is on fire as a handful of wildfires rage on. The fires are far from contained and the weather conditions are primed to fuel them even further. Right now, there are 20 major wildfires burning across the state with 12 of them popping up in the last day or so. Three of the largest fires are right here in our area, burning thousands of acres and forcing families to leave their homes.

There's one in Polk and Trinity counties and a second one in Plantersville. The third one is burning in the Huntsville area. That fire has the potential to cause problems on I-45 today like it did yesterday.

The drive was a very hazy one for our Eyewitness News team as they drove to Huntsville. There are blackened stretches of grass along I-45, and even some flames in these dry wooded areas. That's why parts of I-45 was shut down Sunday in both directions for several hours between Huntsville and Madisonville and may close again today if the conditions worsen.

So far, the fire in Walker County has spread to 1,600 acres and according to forest officials, at least 15 percent of it has been contained.

It was so bad Sunday that I-45 was shut down in both directions for several hours between Huntsville and Madisonville. In addition to stranding drivers, homeowners were inconvenienced. The fire forced about five dozen families out of their homes so far, according to the emergency management coordinator.

"We had to evacuate about 450 homes and judge did a mandatory evacuation and most of those people either went to a shelter that we opened up or staying with friends or relatives," said Butch Davis with the Walker County Sheriff's Office.

Authorities are asking people who have been told to evacuate to do so immediately, to be ready to go in a moments notice and certainly don't get in the way of the efforts of the firefighters.

Horses have been removed to be kept out of harms way, as well. No injuries have been reported.

Fire crews have requested two Apache helicopters from San Antonio to help battle the flames from the air. Fire officials are still investigating what sparked this massive fire.

We are gathering more information and will update you on Eyewitness News and abc13.com as additional details become available.

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