Texas firefighters battling an historically destructive blaze in Bastrop County could have more success on Wednesday, as powerful winds that were fanning the fire appear to have died down.
The flames have so far consumed more than 600 homes and scorched about 45 square miles in and around Bastrop, a city near Austin. Texas Forest Service spokeswoman April Saginor said that firefighters have the blaze about 30 percent contained, and said that milder winds meant Wednesday should be a good day.
The reason why it hasn't been able to be contained is the wind, said Forest Service spokesman John Nichols. We still have a lot of active fire on the line, but today was the first day we had very light wind.
The Bastrop County fire is the most extreme of the 180 or so conflagrations throughout Texas. Some 1,200 firefighters are battling blazes across the state, the overextended ranks of Texas firefighters fortified by reenforcements from as far away as California and Oregon. They employed heavy tanker planes and aircraft that can scoop up to 1,500 gallons of water at a time.
A blaze closer to Houston known as the Riley Road was about 50 percent controlled on Tuesday evening after it had destroyed 73 homes and engulfed about 7,800 acres, according to the Houston Chronicle.
While residual winds from Tropical Storm Lee helped to sustain the fires, a punishing drought is believed to be largely responsible for their igniting and then rapidly consuming parched land.
Governor Rick Perry has demanded federal assistance with the fire, and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that the Obama administration had approved seven grants to help.