Bastrop County Wildfire Devastation Triples Previous Estimates

 
on September 08 2011 1:54 PM
Texas wildfires
A wildfire burned near Possum Kingdom Lake in Texas last week. Tropical Storm Lee didn't bring any rain to the drought-stricken state, but its winds spread more than 60 fires. Reuters

Officials revised their estimates of the destruction wrought by the fires raging across Texas, tripling the number of homes consumed by a record breaking fire in hard-hit Bastrop County.

Authorities said on Thursday that 1,386 Bastrop County homes had been destroyed in the blaze, nearly triple what officials had said earlier in the week. Blazes smoldering across other parts of the state destroyed an additional 240 homes.

Firefighters have made scant progress containing the Bastrop County fire. They managed to subdue about 30 percent of the fire once residual winds from Tropical Storm Lee dissipated on Wednesday, but that figure was the same on Thursday as the flames thrived off of dry brush and a scorching drought. That drought has led to wildfires burning some 3.6 million acres in Texas and has cost the state's agricultural industry more than $5 billion.

Melanie Stradling, a spokeswoman for the Texas Forest Service, told the Los Angeles Times that the weather conditions continue to be the type upon which wildfires thrive.

It's still hot and dry, and the winds are supposed to be a little bit better, but it's low relative humidity, said Stradling. The firefighters are working as hard as they can to get all these fires contained as best they can.

Bastrop County has been declared a federal disaster area, and officials urged citizens to respect evacuation orders.

Respect the firefighters, said County Judge Ronnie McDonald. Let them go in and do their jobs.

Texas firefighters have been joined by recruits from across the country, and the Texas National Guard has deployed an impressive array of aerial support: eight Blackhawk and three Chinook helicopters. On Friday, firefighters plan to activate Ten Tanker, a retrofitted DC-10 aircraft which can dump 12,000 gallons of flame retardant or water at a time.

 

 

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