North Texas wildfires loom over Archer City, threaten evacuations

Archer City_Wildfires have left thousands of acres of scorched earth in North Texas.  Conditions are so volatile in Archer City, its residents are on standby for evacuation at any time.

Fires have ripped through 11,000 acres of grassland this week.  So, with Thursday's strong winds and high temperatures, residents have been preparing for the worst.  Some are already packed and ready to evacuate.  Flames got dangerously close to town on Monday, and continued to rekindle with flare ups Thursday, so they aren't taking any chances.

At any given moment, warning sirens could sound evacuating residents.  Archer County Judge Gary Beesinger says it's better to be safe than sorry since the flames have come within a mile and a half of town, and they have a plan.  "Well, first we load up everything in the house, and we pack it into our cars, and we drive off somewhere safe away from the fires," he says.  Everybody's pretty anxious and rightfully so, but we just wanted everyone to be aware of it, we're not panicking."

Beesinger closed down the courthouse and converted it to an emergency command center.  "If that thing rekindles, with the winds blowing like it is out of the southwest, it could be here on the city within thirty minutes at best," he says.  But, the courthouse isn't all that's closed.  "Got a hold of the nursing home," he says.  "We transported some prisoners - all prisoners - out of the jail facility here, and the school did shut down this morning about 10:15 based on the weather forecast."

Thursday's forecast called for warm temperatures and dry conditions.  Wind gusts have been strong, so small hot spots could flare up quickly, causing a dangerous situation.  "We've had four fires that broke out today, but thankfully none of them off of the fire that occurred yesterday," Beeson said.

Luckily, none of the fires post too big of a threat, but it's not over yet.  "We could be doing this again tomorrow," he said.  "As I said yesterday was a rekindle of the fire Monday, so they're not forecasting tomorrow to be as bad as they are Saturday.  So, I don't know that we're out of this till the weekends over, if then."

If you live in Archer City, and officials decide to evacuate, the tornado sirens will sound in addition to an emergency broadcast over local cable Channel 14.  At that point, officials ask that you immediately leave the area.

Count on 7News to keep you updated.