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Texas Firefighter Dies Battling Wildfire & Nightly Roundup

By KERA News

Dallas, TX – At least one death is being blamed on the wildfire raging in Eastland Texas, about 100 miles west of Fort Worth. 51 year old volunteer firefigher Gregory Simmons died battling the blaze.

The fire in Eastland has already caused considerable property damage as well, according April Saginor. She's with the Texas Forest Service.

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Saginor: That has grown to about 20,000 acres today. It started late Wednesday evening. We've gotten reports of about 275 households displaced with 30 homes lost in that area.

Hundreds of people have been evacuated and Possum Kingdom State Park is closed. The Red Cross is operating shelters in Eastland and Breckenbridge for those fleeing the fires. Saginor expects these dry, windy conditions will keep firefighters occupied across Texas for the next several weeks, if not longer.

Texas Promises To Spend $830 Million on Education

This afternoon State Education Commissioner Robert Scott formally requested the $830 million education dollars Washington was refusing to send.

The money became available earlier this week after Congress removed restrictions that kept Texas from collecting because of concerns Texas would not be use the money for schools.

In a letter to the Secretary of Education, Commissioner Scott promised to quickly make all the funding available to Texas school districts. He said the state would distribute the money according to standard funding formulas and cash-strapped districts will be able to decide how to use the money.

The money is part of the education jobs act passed by Congress last year. It's estimated the money for Texas would fund more than 14,000 teachers and school support staff.

Read Education Commissioner's letter: http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index2.aspx?id=2147500018

April 15th: Not The Usual Tax Deadline Day

This is April 15th, but it is NOT the deadline to file your federal taxes.

That's Monday, the 18th this year because today is a holiday in Washington DC.

In the Dallas IRS office, Clay Sanford says late filers who need help can get it over the weekend.

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Sanford: Our taxpayer assistance centers at 1100 Commerce in Dallas, also 4050 Alpha Road in Farmers Branch, and then in the federal building in Fort Worth at 819 Taylor Street, all of these offices will be open extended hours Saturday, from 7:30 until 5:30. And then until 5:30 on Monday.

Sanford says 70% of taxpayers file electronically. He says because of that many Post Offices are no longer staying open until midnight for that important "postmark."

Forensic Commission Final Report on Willingham Case

The final Texas Forensic Science Commission's final report does not rule whether investigators were negligent when they ruled a 1991 fatal fire "arson". Todd Willingham of Corsicana was executed for the fire that killed his three daughters.

The report makes a dozen recommendations to bring Texas in line with national fire investigation standards. And it recommends the State Fire Marshal adopt procedures to review of old cases when advances in fire science would change their outcome.

Commission member, Tarrant County Medical Examiner Nizam Peerwani is encouraged.

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Peerwani: If all the recommendations are adopted, we would have a fantastic arson invstigation in our state.

The recommendations require action by the Legislature of various state agencies.

The Commission could take up the "negligence" issue this summer, after a ruling from the State Attorney General.

Long Prison Term For ATF Agent Shooting

A suspected southeast Dallas drug dealer who shot an ATF agent during a raid is going to prison for 29 years.

Prosecutors say 39 year old Gary Montgomery, known as G-Bone, was sentenced today.

Court documents say G-Bone fired several shots through his front door as ATF agents arrived early one morning last September to serve an arrest warrant. An ATF agent was wounded. He has since recovered.

Investigators say G-Bone was part of a violent street gang called the Highland Hills Posse, and ran a drug distribution ring in that neighborhood and in Pleasant Grove.