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Firefighters in drought-stricken Texas are struggling to contain ravaging 16-mile-wide wildfires that has destroyed almost 500 homes. Enormous smoke clouds roared in the sky and hung over downtown Bastrop, a town along the Colorado River. The fire was far enough away from Austin that the city was not threatened, officials said.
Fires scorch across Texas, which has been hit by 30-40 mph winds generated by Tropical Storm Lee. Officials said the fire had “grown considerably” is now burning on 25,000 acres.
President declared the area surrounding the state capitol a major disaster.
The wildfires led to the death of a 20-year-old woman and her 18-month-old daughter: at least 38 homes are destroyed. Drought conditions and tremendous wind systems from Irene scorched more than 30,000 acres. Neighborhoods across eastern and central parts Texas report widespread damage.
The biggest wildfire occurred southeast of Austin. The enormous 16-mile fire destroyed at least 300 homes and the pine forests surrounding the town of Bastrop. The fire jumped the Colorado River twice and is still uncontrolled. Texas Forest Service representative, Jan Amen, said the monster wildfires are zero percent contained
At least seven of the 60 wildfires still rage near Austin. The wildfire threat is so dire that fire fighters issued a public appeal asking any and all area firefighters, as well as those out of state, to report for duty. Bastrop County Fire Chief, Ronnie McDonald, told media the biggest blaze is about 16 miles long at this time and about six miles wide
Republican presidential contender Rick Perry canceled plans to appear at a candidate forum in South Carolina. Texas governor returned home to oversee the fast-moving wildfires and said the next 48 to 72 hours would be crucial.
The governor warned Texans to take extreme caution as we continue to see the devastating effects of sweeping wildfires impacting both rural and urban areas of the state.
He urged people to comply with evacuation orders and leave their homes immediately if they lost power. I understand that losing your home or lifetime possessions is incredibly difficult, but do not put your life in jeopardy. The governor stated the wildfire area is roughly the size of Connecticut.
When Perry viewed the fire from the air, he said his experience was surreal. I’ve seen a number of big fires in my life. This is as mean-looking as I’ve ever seen, particularly because it was so close to the city.
Ray Sullivan, Perry’s Communications Director, stated on 09.05.11 that Gov. Perry’s first priority is to the people of Texas during this natural disaster. The governor is in close communication with emergency operations officials regarding fires in Texas, including discussions with emergency management leaders over the weekend and this morning..
Perry canceled his Tuesday campaign stop in California Tuesday. He told press that it’s still to early to confirm his attendance at 2012 contenders for the Reagan Centennial GOP Candidates Debate. (The forum in Simi Valley will begin at 5:00 p.m. PDT: MSNBC will stream live video of the debate at MSNBC.com.)
The Texas governor said, I’m not paying attention to politics right now. There will be plenty of time for that. People’s lives and their possessions are at stake, and that’s substantially more important.
Texas is suffering its worst drought since the 1950s. Since December 2010, wildfires have destroyed 3.5 million acres.