Clay Lease fire still burning; 80 percent contained

Firefighters are gradually gaining the upper hand against a fire that has consumed more than 5,000 acres in eastern Howard County, but the blaze is expected to continue through the weekend.Meanwhile, fires consumed two abandoned structures but caused no injuries in Big Spring late Thursday and early today.A downed power line is being blamed as the cause for the wildfire, which began Tuesday afternoon in the Clay Lease in eastern Howard County. Two firefighters have received minor injuries battling the blaze, but no significant structural damage has been reported, said Tommy Sullivan, chief of the Howard County Volunteer Fire Department.The firefighters were injured Tuesday when their truck was overtaken by the fire. They were able to escape the situation, however, and were subsequently treated and released from Scenic Mountain Medical Center, Sullivan said, adding that the truck sustained heavy damage but “isn't a total loss.”The fire has presented a “good news, bad news” scenario for crews — it is away from any populated areas, but that very remoteness is hampering firefighters' efforts, Sullivan said.“It's five miles wide in some spots … and the only way to get in there easy is with helicopters, and they're not always available,” Sullivan said. “So we've decided to let this take its course.”Sullivan estimated the fire, which has consumed 5,000 acres so far, is 80 percent contained but will likely continue to burn for the next few days.In the meantime, he warned that the chance for more wildfires in this area will only increase as current weather conditions continue.“As long as the temperatures remain high and humidity remains low, things are only going to get worse,” Sullivan said. “The only thing that will change the situation is lots of rain.”The first of the two structure fires in Big Spring was reported shortly before 10 p.m. Thursday at the intersection of N.E. Second and Runnels streets. Big Spring Fire Marshal Carl Condray said the storage structure was a total loss.The cause of the fire is undetermined, he added.An abandoned house in the 1700 block of Owens also was a total loss after catching fire around 3 a.m. today, Condray reported.The cause of that fire is still under investigation.No injuries were reported in either fire, Condray said.