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Texas fire 'won't reach major city'

A growing wildfire racing through parched fields and woods in the US state of Texas is unlikely to make it far enough to threaten the heavily populated metropolitan area, a state forestry official said.

The fire started last Friday near Possum Kingdom Lake, 70 miles west of Fort Worth, and linked up with several smaller blazes. By Tuesday, it had burned nearly 150,000 acres, destroyed 30 homes and a church and forced hundreds of residents to flee the area, Texas Forest Service spokesman Marq Webb said.

Mr Webb said crews would be able to use firefighting tactics keep the blaze from Fort Worth, one of Texas' largest cities with nearly 750,000 residents.

"It's still a long way out there. God help us if it goes that far," he said. "Stranger things have happened, but we're not even thinking that at this point."

But the state-wide drought, hot temperatures and gusting winds have made for ideal conditions that have allowed wildfires to ignite and spread quickly in several parts of the state, including the capital, Austin.

Authorities ordered the 400 residents of Palo Pinto, about 50 miles west of Fort Worth, to leave the city on Tuesday evening because of the advancing flames, said Trooper Gary Rozzell of the Texas Department of Public Safety. The county's jail inmates also were evacuated.

Several of the state's largest cities have been on the alert since a wildfire in Austin destroyed 10 homes at the weekend after starting on the outskirts of town.

Authorities said that fire started when a homeless man left his campfire unattended and the wind blew an ember into the tinder-dry vegetation. The fire spread quickly and forced the evacuation of about 200 homes before crews were able to contain it.

"We absolutely saw what happened (in Austin), and we do have similar dry conditions and very windy conditions," said Melissa Sparks, a San Antonio Fire Department spokeswoman. "We are prepared in case it happens, but there's not really an opportunity for us to go out and mow everybody's lawns for them."

Jason Evans, a spokesman for the Dallas Fire Department, said some of the city's populated areas are close to rural regions full of parched grass and brush. "I think people are guilty of thinking, 'This can't happen here,'" he said. "There's a lot of people in Texas who thought that when they saw wildfires in Colorado and California, but now they are realising it can happen in Texas, too."

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