HOUSTON (AP) — High winds and dry weather combined to fuel grass fires that left thousands of acres of Texas blackened this weekend.

"We're critically dry across the state," Nick Harrison, a spokesman for the Texas Forest Service, said Saturday.

Winter frost that has killed grass and lack of rain has left the landscape receptive to burning.

"We get a frontal passage through. Lots of times it's dry, we experience low humidity, extremely high winds and the last couple of days we've had unseasonably warm days," Harrison said.

No injuries were reported Saturday.

Officials warned conditions across South Central Texas and the Hill Country also were favorable for fires Saturday with winds up to 25 mph and humidity dropping as a cold front was blowing through from the north.

Many areas of the state had readings into the 80s on Friday — Fort Worth was 80 degrees and Waco 84. On Saturday, temperatures there were likely to reach only the low 40s, forecasters said. Highs in Abilene reached 82 on Friday but temperatures were in the mid-20s there during the late morning Saturday.

On Friday, a 53-year-old man died of burns suffered in a morning fire near several homeless camps in a wooded area of southeast Austin. The man, burned over 90 percent of his body, was taken to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio where he died.

Friday night, crews were summoned to a rural area in Montague County, west of Wichita Falls and just south of the Oklahoma-Texas state line, to contain a 1,000-acre blaze that appeared to have started on the side of a road.

"The fire is in cleanup stages," Wendy Davis of the Montague County Sheriff's Department said Saturday.

No structures were threatened and no evacuations were ordered, she said.

Crews also worked to contain a 1,700-acre fire to the south in Jack County, Harrison said. Two buildings were lost in that blaze, which was about 70 percent contained Saturday evening, he said.

In Jones County, about 25 miles northwest of Abilene in West Texas, a fire that torched 2,500 acres beginning Thursday no longer was active and was being monitored locally, Harrison said.

Fifteen departments and at least 200 volunteers responded to the blaze that destroyed, six homes, five hunting cabins, 20 outbuildings and 10 vehicles.

Another blaze near the Shackelford and Throckmorton county line about 60 miles north of Abilene was estimated to have burned more than 1,000 acres, destroyed two outbuildings and threatened six other structures.

"We're in a winter fire season," Harrison said. "Every day that we're dry adds to our problem."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

Summary

Date: 1/24/2009 10:05 PM

Slug: BC-TX—Texas Grass Fires,2nd Ld-Writethru

Headline: High winds, dry conditions fuel Texas grass fires

Byline: By MICHAEL GRACZYK

Byline Title: Associated Press Writer

Copyright Holder: AP

Priority: r (4)

With Photo:

Dateline: HOUSTON

Lead

Editors' Note: Eds: UPDATES latest fire; ADDS quote.

Word Count: 459

File Name (Transref): d0678

Editorial Type: Lead

AP Category: n

Format: bx

Edit Mode : Cancel

HOUSTON (AP) — High winds and dry weather combined to fuel grass fires that left thousands of acres of Texas blackened this weekend. "We're critically dry across the state," Nick Harrison, a spokesman for the Texas Forest Service, said Saturday. Winter frost that has killed grass and lack of rain has left the landscape receptive to burning. "We get a frontal passage through. Lots of times it's dry, we experience low humidity, extremely high winds and the last couple of days we've had unseasonably warm days," Harrison said. No injuries were reported Saturday. Officials warned conditions across South Central Texas and the Hill Country also were favorable for fires Saturday with winds up to 25 mph and humidity dropping as a cold front was blowing through from the north. Many areas of the state had readings into the 80s on Friday — Fort Worth was 80 degrees and Waco 84. On Saturday, temperatures there were likely to reach only the low 40s, forecasters said. Highs in Abilene reached 82 on Friday but temperatures were in the mid-20s there during the late morning Saturday. On Friday, a 53-year-old man died of burns suffered in a morning fire near several homeless camps in a wooded area of southeast Austin. The man, burned over 90 percent of his body, was taken to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio where he died. Friday night, crews were summoned to a rural area in Montague County, west of Wichita Falls and just south of the Oklahoma-Texas state line, to contain a 1,000-acre blaze that appeared to have started on the side of a road. "The fire is in cleanup stages," Wendy Davis of the Montague County Sheriff's Department said Saturday. No structures were threatened and no evacuations were ordered, she said. Crews also worked to contain a 1,700-acre fire to the south in Jack County, Harrison said. Two buildings were lost in that blaze, which was about 70 percent contained Saturday evening, he said. In Jones County, about 25 miles northwest of Abilene in West Texas, a fire that torched 2,500 acres beginning Thursday no longer was active and was being monitored locally, Harrison said. Fifteen departments and at least 200 volunteers responded to the blaze that destroyed, six homes, five hunting cabins, 20 outbuildings and 10 vehicles. Another blaze near the Shackelford and Throckmorton county line about 60 miles north of Abilene was estimated to have burned more than 1,000 acres, destroyed two outbuildings and threatened six other structures. "We're in a winter fire season," Harrison said. "Every day that we're dry adds to our problem."

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