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Iconic statue Big Tex goes up in flames

The Big Tex statue was engulfed in flames on Oct. 19, 2012 in Dallas Texas. Allison Griffin via KTVT

DALLAS State Fair of Texas attendees and employees had a scare when they saw the beloved Big Tex statue swallowed up in flames Friday morning.

By the time the fire was put out, Big Tex was almost completely burned, leaving behind little more than the metal frame of the 52-foot-tall cowboy that's an icon of the State Fair of Texas.

"It was surreal," witness Allison Griffin told CBS station KTVT in Dallas-Fort Worth. "In fact, a lot of people didn't realize it. People were still standing and taking pictures in front of Big Tex, like you always do. Fair personnel were driving past and, once the fire started, it just grew very quickly and began to engulf his whole body."

Some material that made up the towering structure's hands and sleeves still could be seen as firefighters gathered around the scorched area Friday.

Fair officials said the fire began in a motor in the statue's neck, KTVT reported. Crews have began to remove pieces of the burned statue to stop any potential injuries from the debris.

"We don't know anything just yet. All we can imagine is that something with the electrical wiring went wrong," Sally Womre with the State Fair of Texas said to KTVT. "Big Tex is wired to move his head and to speak, so that's what we believe right now."

In this Sept. 27, 2002 file photo, Big Tex welcomes visitors to the Texas State Fair in Dallas. AP Photo/LM Otero

Big Tex's 75-gallon hat, 50-pound belt buckle and slow drawl have been greeting state fair visitors with "Howdy folks!" since 1952. This year's fair, which closes Sunday, had been celebrating Big Tex's 60th birthday.

Fair spokeswoman Sue Gooding said no one was injured in the fire and added that she expects Big Tex to be back for next year's state fair.

Video of the statue on fire from KHOU can be seen below.