Texas Wildfires driven by high winds
Dozens of wildfires continued to burn out of control across tinder-dry Texas on Monday as calls went out for off-duty firefighters around the region to report for duty.
The Texas Forest Service reported 56 separate fires on Sunday that had burned some 30,000 acres. Neighborhoods across eastern and central parts of the state were reporting widespread damage.
Authorities said the fires were propelled partly by the high winds brought by Tropical Storm Lee. A late-summer cool front brought winds of 30 to 40 mph to the region, which is already gripped by one of the worst droughts in history.
The National Weather Service said South, Central and East Texas were all under "red flag" warnings for critical fire conditions until late Sunday night.
In the East Texas community of Gladewater, a blaze killed a 20-year-old woman and her toddler daughter who were caught unawares in their mobile home. A longtime Texas sheriff called the Gladewater blaze the fastest-moving fire he has ever seen. Six homes were toppled within minutes, including the mobile home.
"The houses that were in its path on this particular roadway were taken out," Gregg County Sheriff Maxey Cerliano said. "There were many other houses that the fire got right up to the porch."Forest Service officials estimated some 1,400 acres were burned in that area alone, destroying homes, barns and vehicles, and thousands of other acres were scorched in other parts of the state.
"We've completely depleted our resources," Melanie Spradling, a public information officer with the Texas Forest Service, told the Tyler Morning Telegraph. "We're on every fire we can possibly handle and then some."
A late-summer cool front brought winds of 30 to 40 mph to the region, which is already gripped by one of the worst droughts in history.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry cut short a presidential campaign trip to South Carolina to monitor wildfires that are raging in his state.
In Central Texas, the wildfire threat was so dire near Austin that the fire department issued a public appeal asking any and all area firefighters to report for duty.
At least seven fires were burning near the state's capital.
Photo credit: http://texasfred.net/archives/10100
Article continues: http://www.npr.org/2011/09/05/140194891/high-winds-whip-up-texas-wildfires