Two dead, homes burned in Texas wildfires

Two dead, homes burned in Texas wildfires
# 05 September 2011 18:57 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. Sixty separate wildfires, whipped by strong gusts of wind spawned by Tropical Storm Lee as it moved north, burned across Texas on Monday, destroying homes and leaving at least two people dead,APA reports quoting Reuters.

The Texas Forest Service said it responded on Sunday to 63 new fires that burned 32,936 acres, including 22 new large fires.

Authorities in Gregg County, in northeast Texas, say a fire there killed a 20 year old woman and her 18 month old daughter, who were trapped in their mobile home by flames.

Officials said the worst of the fires was east of Austin, where the Bastrop County Complex fire stretched for 16 miles. has destroyed more than 20,000 acres, and was zero percent contained.

"We have about 16 miles long at this time and about six miles wide," said Bastrop County Fire Chief Ronnie McDonald.

"The Circle D, K.C. Estates, Pine Forest, Colovista and Tahitian Village subdivision have been evacuated. Firefighters are trying to hold the fire at FM 2571," the Texas Forest Service said of the BAstgrop on its web site on Monday.

"Reports indicate possibly 300 homes have been destroyed. MODIS satellite image indicates the fire has jumped Highway 95 and is approximately 25,000 acres," the service said.

Residents said the fire had moved at an amazing speed, driven by the strong, gusty winds.

"It’s pretty dire," Justice Jones of the Forest Service said on Monday morning.

The Bastrop Complex fire has forced the evacuation of several subdivisions in the county of 70,000 people.

"This is a shock," said one man as he drove out of the fire zone near Bastrop with his family. "We had some nice plans for Labor Day, and this gives you a sick feeling."

Jones says aircraft, including at least one air tanker, were dropping tons of water on the fast-moving fire on Monday. Fire crews set up a fire line at a county road on the south end of the fire, where they hope to stop its spread.

In the Steiner Ranch area of Austin, a separate fire has forced the evacuation of some 1,000 homes. One woman desperately scanned the wall of thick black smoke and flames looking for her lost dog.

"I was just driving around the neighborhood, I’m five months pregnant, and I was taking in smoke and I was freaking out," she said. "I looked to the right of me and everything over there was full of fire, it was just gone."

"We’ve had multiple home losses across the state," Jones said. "Some of them on large fires like Bastrop, and some on fairly small fires. It doesn’t have to be a large fire to destroy your home."

About 200 homes had to be evacuated due to a brush fire in the Austin suburb of Pflugerville. Another 150 homes were evacuated in Longview, in east Texas. A dozen homes were also under mandatory evacuation on Monday morning near Tyler in east Texas.