Eintime Conversion for education and research 04-08-2008 @ 12:48:32
Copyrighted by originating associated source: Original

At least 500 people flee 25,000-acre Texas wildfire

SAN MANUEL, Texas (AP) — A wildfire blamed on a fallen power line in the Rio Grande Valley spread to about 25,000 acres Wednesday, forcing hundreds from their homes.

A 40-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 281 — the main route north out of the area — was reopened in both directions about 6:30 a.m., said Hidalgo County spokeswoman Cari Lambrecht.

The fire that began Tuesday afternoon was 50% contained by Wednesday morning. Earlier, the Texas Forest Service estimated the blaze covered about 50,000 acres but a view from the air showed it to be about half that size, spokeswoman Sandra Taylor said.

Still, the fire covered about 20 miles long and was 2 miles wide, she said.

At least four homes were destroyed, and bulldozers uprooted grass near the Hidalgo County Jail and an elementary school in hopes of stopping the encroaching flames, authorities said.

At least 500 people were evacuated. There were no reports of injuries.

"Right now, our priority is to save lives," Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas said.

Deputies went door-to-door through the area Tuesday night to alert residents to the threat. Edinburg North High School was opened as a shelter, Hidalgo County spokeswoman Cari Lambrecht said.

The wildfire began after President Bush made federal aid available to 70% of Texas counties last weekend. Wildfires scorched 133,000 acres across the state Friday.

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