DALLAS – Rainstorms have drenched most of North Texas and parts of Oklahoma, helping firefighters contain several large blazes that have burned for days.
Wildfires have burned more than 192,000 acres across North Texas.
In a white-clapboard church spared by wildfires that ravaged rural Stoneburg last week, a pastor offered words of hope to his congregation on Easter Sunday.
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"It's devastating to see, but hope springs eternal," the Rev. Larry Kennedy told about 40 people, including some children in pink and green Easter dresses, at Stoneburg Baptist Church.
Firefighters managed to save the church, which was built in the 1940s. The odor of burned debris lingered Sunday from the blackened fields and heaps of ashes and charred cars in town.
"It's hard to see," said church member Marilyn Rater, wiping away tears as she looked across the street at the debris of her childhood home, "but it could have been worse." The couple who lived there had escaped unharmed.
The blazes were finally contained Sunday after early morning rainfall, said Montague County Sheriff Paul Cunningham.
David Abernathy, a forest service operations section chief, said Sunday that the rains were a tremendous help. He says many weary firefighters have been given a chance to rest or return home.
Wind-fueled fires in Montague County in North Texas engulfed 75,000 acres of parched pastures Thursday and up to 100 homes. Three people died and two were injured.
In neighboring Oklahoma, showers and thunderstorms helped exhausted firefighters extinguish blazes that flared in Oklahoma, Carter and Stephens counties on Saturday, officials said.
"We had crews out for about four hours Saturday, but we've gotten well over an inch of rain and that's helped us immensely," said Jerry Lojka, fire marshal for hard-hit Midwest City. "Anything left smoldering last night was taken care of and there have been no new fires."
The rain came days after wind-whipped fires destroyed about 170 homes statewide and injured 62 people, two seriously. Fire investigators haven't determined what started most of the blazes, but Lojka has said the Oklahoma County fire was intentionally set.
On Sunday, he said the investigation into the fire was ongoing.