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Fires Continue To Ravage Texas & Nightly Roundup

By BJ Austin, KERA News & Wire Services

Dallas, TX – The evacuation order for Palo Pinto, west of Fort Worth, was lifted about 3:30pm Wednesday.

Yesterday the entire town of 425 was ordered evacuated when winds shifted and the huge Possum Kingdom wildfire threatened the city limits.

Victoria Koenig with the Forest Service says winds were a bit calmer Wednesday, but the many fires are not contained. She says the state is approaching TWO million acres burned by wildfires.

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Koenig: When you listen to all the folks that are assigned to this incident, there has not been one person who has said they have seen anything worse. What you hear is everyone saying this is the worst they have ever experienced in their history of fighting fires in Texas.

Koenig says the fires stretch across Texas from the far west into the East Texas pine forest. She says a team from Florida is on its way to help there. Hundreds of firefighters from nearly three dozen states are in Texas fighting the fires.

In Dallas Wednesday, Governor Perry said he has not heard from Washington on his request for a federal disaster declaration.

Police find body of missing woman

Police in Plano say a body found in a wooded area east of a major highway is that of a missing fitness instructor.

Police say the body of Susan Loper was found Wednesday morning near the Dallas North Tollway in the neighboring suburb of Frisco.

The 41-year-old Frisco resident was reported missing Tuesday from the Plano country club where she worked. Friend Marla Malone told KRLD-AM of Dallas-Fort Worth that police had told family the body was Loper's. The station said police later confirmed the statement.

Authorities said there were signs of a struggle in the Gleneagles Country Club fitness room. Her purse and cell phone were at the club. Her car was missing from the lot but was found later.

Dallas Names Chair of Gas Drilling Task Force

Dallas Mayor Dwaine Caraway has tapped former council member Lois Finkleman to chair a "gas drilling task force."

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Caraway: Lois has had a solid scientific and environmental background. She's highly respected for her extensive civic work around the region. That will be more importantly a critical part of this task force because of her understanding. She understands the concerns about gas drilling.

Neighbors in Oak Cliff and southwest Dallas want the task force to come up with an updated drilling ordinance to safeguard air and water quality near drilling sites.

Industry officials warn against plans to put representatives on the Task Force, but not let them vote. Task Force details must still be worked out.

Critics blast easing of rules on polluters

Environmentalists are blasting the Texas House for passing legislation that would make it harder for citizens and activists to block permits for industrial polluters.

Jim Marston, regional director for the Texas Environmental Defense Fund, warned Wednesday that the legislation would violate federal air and water protection laws and prompt the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to take over the permitting process.

Under the bill, on its way to the Senate, people who complain in "contested hearings" about industrial pollution would have to prove that emissions exceed accepted standards.

Under current law, the burden of proof is on the companies applying for the permit. Proponents say the change is needed so that power plants don't run into so much opposition that they don't build needed facilities.

Arrest In Violent Dallas Purse Snatching

Dallas Police say a crime stoppers tip led to last night's arrest of a suspect in a violent purse snatching.

Police released photos of two suspects earlier this week, hoping someone would call police.

19 year old Javier Duenas was arrested last night in Grand Prairie. Police continue to look for his accomplice, 20 year old Thelma Delao.

The two are accused of attacking a female victim and dragging her across a shopping center parking lot before stealing her purse. It happened three weeks ago, and was caught on surveillance video.

House passes health care compact bill

The Texas House has passed a bill that would allow the state to enter into a heath care "compact" with like-minded states.

The bill, passed on a 102-46 vote, was a slap at federal control of health care. Lawmakers in several other states, fueled by tea party anger at Washington, are considering similar initiatives.

The bill would require at least one state partner and approval from the U.S. Congress before going into effect. Proponents said the bill would help Texas stretch its health dollars further and deal with spiraling costs. Critics said it would remove a key federal safety net and cut back on already strapped programs that help the poor and elderly. The legislation faces a final procedural hurdle before it can move to the Senate.

Javier Duenas remains jailed on a 250 thousand dollar bond.

Former Minister Sentenced On Child Porn Charges

A former Kaufman County minister is going to federal prison for five years. He was sentenced Wednesday after an earlier "guilty plea" to child pornography charges.

Federal investigators say 61 year old David Ray Gray was the music minister at a Baptist church near Scurry, Texas until shortly before his arrest in 2009.

Investigators found child pornography on Gray's home computer, and the one in his church office.

He reports to prison next month.