Weary firefighters finally got a handle on a massive wildfire spanning three northern Texas counties Wednesday, aided by federal reinforcements and a weather change that brought cooler temperatures and calmer winds.
But some officials cautioned that the improved weather conditions will last for only a few more days, and the biggest help from Mother Nature still has not arrived.
"We really need some rainfall," said Dan Byrd, a National Weather Service meteorologist working with the Texas Forest Service. "We expect rain in the next few days, but we don't know if it'll get on the fires or not."
Also Wednesday, as a firefighter who died last week after battling a blaze was laid to rest, another died from injuries suffered while battling a wildfire earlier this month in the Texas Panhandle.
The team of federal firefighters and officials from several U.S. agencies -- the second one to help with a Texas fire this month -- joined local personnel Wednesday, this time to help fight a North Texas blaze that has burned nearly 150,000 acres and destroyed about 50 homes in several communities. The fire started a week ago in the Possum Kingdom Lake area, about 70 miles west of Fort Worth, and joined with several blazes in two other counties.
Haven Cook, a spokeswoman for the team, said officials at the lake were encouraged because interior areas of the fire were burning out and no longer posed a danger. By mid-afternoon, an evacuation order issued Tuesday night for the nearby city of Palo Pinto was lifted, she said.
Byrd said that the moister air makes containing the fires easier because trees and bushes become less flammable.
Texas Forest Service spokesman Marq Webb said weather conditions Wednesday allowed firefighters to make "great progress" in building containment lines in the North Texas fire because the wind was down and humidity was up. Wildfires have scorched more than 1.4 million acres in Texas since Jan. 1, according to the Texas Forest Service, including some massive fires still burning.