Up in smoke

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Al Key/DRC
Denton firefighters try to extinguish poles under the UNT Discovery Park sign near Loop 288 after they were ignited by a grass fire Thursday afternoon.
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Wildfire erupts near UNT Discovery Park

High winds carried clouds of dark smoke from a fire covering more than 2 acres near the University of North Texas Discovery Park through northwestern Denton neighborhoods Thursday afternoon.

The fire call came in a little before 3 p.m. and crews had the blaze contained about an hour later, officials said. More than a half-dozen fire trucks responded to the blaze, with units from Denton, Sanger and Krum fire departments on the scene. Crews contained the fire before it spread to the nearby UNT campus.

No injuries were reported, but Ken Hedges, Denton Fire Department spokesman, said one person was transported to the hospital with breathing problems.

Hedges said the high winds made it difficult to contain the fire initially, and the winds even caused a second fire nearly 300 feet from the first.

“The wind made putting out the fire a little difficult at first because it caused the fire to spread quickly,” Hedges said. “But we got to it quickly before it got worse.”

The high winds also made the fires appear to be larger than they actually were as smoke crept through neighborhoods. The black smoke that blanketed the area could also be seen from the downtown Denton Square.

Officials aren’t sure what caused the fire, but because the fire occurred on UNT property, the university’s fire marshal will investigate the incident.

Facilities at the University of North Texas’ Discovery Park were evacuated Thursday afternoon but were expected to resume normal operations Thursday evening.

According to firefighters and UNT officials, no damage occurred to structures at Discovery Park.

Much of North Texas was under a fire warning Thursday. A red flag warning remained in effect until that evening for strong winds and low humidity. Northwest winds were 20 to 30 mph with gusts up to 40 mph Thursday afternoon, and the humidity was at 15 percent to 30 percent.

Any fires that developed were likely to spread rapidly, according to the National Weather Service. The winds were brought in by a strong cold front that swept across the region Thursday.

JOHN D. HARDEN can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @JDHarden.


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