Texas Wildfires: 'Move So Fast, They Kill'

Sep 6, 2011

Raging wildfires continue to burn across central Texas and so far have destroyed about 500 homes, Austin's American-Statesman writes this morning.

The newspaper adds that "the scope of the disaster — perhaps the worst of its kind in the region's history — was not fully known by late Monday as officials struggled to provide a complete count of the number of lost structures."

On Morning Edition today, NPR's Wade Goodwyn reported that unlike relatively slow-moving wildfires that hit the area in April, the most recent blazes "move so fast they kill. ... In northeast Texas, a young mother and her 18-month-old child were burned to death when they were trapped inside their mobile home."

Wade added that "there are so many big fires — 23 and counting — there are simply not enough firefighters and aircraft to go around."

One potentially hopeful note: The Associated Press says that "slack winds were expected after midnight Tuesday," and that might give firefighters a chance to make some progress battling the blazes.

But the wire service also writes that "at least 5,000 people were forced from their homes in Bastrop County about 25 miles east of Austin, and about 400 were in emergency shelters, officials said Monday. School and school-related activities were canceled Tuesday."

While over the weekend tropical storm Lee drenched Louisiana and states to the east and north, it actually made things worse in the "rain-starved farm and ranchland in central Texas," the Dallas Morning News reports. Monday, the flames were "fanned in part by howling winds" from Lee's remnants.

Rick Blakely, 54, told the News that when he gets back to his home in Bastrop County, "I'm not expecting anything to be standing."

"There was someone who asked how I was, and it's a state of shock," he said. "I just don't know what I'm going to do."

Gov. Rick Perry, now a candidate for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, plans to "seek a major disaster declaration from the federal government," the Statesman writes.

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