Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Bastrop is burning ...


- The most destructive wildfire on record in Texas showed no signs of slowing down Monday, destroying 25,000 acres in Bastrop County and 476 homes, more houses than any single wildfire before and more than all other fires this year combined, according to the Texas Forest Service.

With more than 60 new wildfires raging across the state, Gov. Rick Perry left the campaign trail Monday in South Carolina to address the public and organize requests for more federal aid.

Closer to Houston, a fire in Magnolia burned 20 homes and more than 1,600 acres, and was threatening subdivisions in Montgomery and Grimes counties late Monday. It had moved southwest into Waller County last Monday.

It was one of several fires to hit the area, straining state and local resources as officials focused on the most dangerous blazes. One firefighter was injured and one fire engine burned in blazes in the Magnolia area, said Lt. Dan Norris, spokesman for the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office.

Authorities did not yet know how much of the most dangerous fire had been contained Monday, but planned to continue fighting it "as long as necessary," Norris said.

Strong winds and dry conditions fanned the flames and aided the blaze's rapid growth, forcing the evacuation of more than 150 homes. Montgomery County officials were encouraging evacuations from the intersection of FM 1774 and FM 1488, about 42 miles northwest of Houston, up to the Grimes County line, an official said.

Magnolia fire

The Magnolia fire, located off FM 1774 and FM 1488, jumped FM 1488 late Monday and forced further evacuations, although some families were being allowed back to their homes. The Magnolia Independent School District canceled classes today because of the fires. Evacuation shelters were being set up throughout the area, including at Magnolia High School.

Another fire in the area had burned 100 acres and was 80 percent contained, Norris said. It had destroyed one structure and caused no injuries after 50 homes were evacuated.

A fire covering about 100 acres was burning in Oak Ridge North late Monday.

A fire near Nacogdoches that started Sunday night raged to 300 acres Monday and forced 60 families to evacuate their homes, said Ralph Cullom, a spokesman for the Texas Forrest Service. That fires grew with strong gusts of winds and fed off of dry conditions on the ground.

"This drought we're having is just unprecedented," Cullom said.

No injuries have been reported in Bastrop, but two people were reported killed in a North Texas fire Monday. A woman and her 18-month-old child died when a fast-moving fire near Gladewater, east of Dallas, set their mobile home on fire and they were unable to escape.

The Bastrop County Complex Fire, pushed by strong winds and fed by plenty of dry grasses, shrubs and trees, steadily moved south Monday and expanded throughout the day. It jumped the Colorado River twice.

"We will be working days on end," said Mike Fisher, the Bastrop County Emergency Management Coordinator. "The fire is so dynamic we really have no idea where it is."

'Lives at stake'

Perry said the wildfire burning in the central part of the state is "as mean looking" as he's ever seen.

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