Texas wildfire destruction worsens: 1,626 homes lost
A fire raging across the state's Bastrop County has consumed 1,386 homes -- nearly double the 785 homes listed as lost as recently as Wednesday. Blazes elsewhere in the state are said to have destroyed about 240 homes since Sunday.
The escalating property toll underscores the sheer magnitude of the fires -- and the state's limited resources.
The increases also reflect better information as officials cleared to enter the fire-damaged areas conduct house-by-house assessments, Melanie Stradling, a spokeswoman for the Texas Forest Service, told The Times.
Firefighters continued to struggle Thursday to contain the Bastrop County fire, which has been fueled by driving winds and scorching drought conditions, including tinder-dry brush. The blaze was reported to be 30% contained -- the same figure given Wednesday.
"It's still hot and dry, and the winds are supposed to be a little bit better, but it's low relative humidity," Stradling said. "The firefighters are working as hard as they can to get all these fires contained as best they can."
The Bastrop blaze is just one of many bedeviling the state. Stradling said that 20 new fires cropped up overnight, burning 1,422 acres. In the last week alone, the service has reported more than 175 fires that have scored more than 126,000 acres.
Limited resources continue to be a problem. The Austin American-Statesman reported Thursday that a converted DC-10 jetliner capable of dropping 12,000 gallons of flame retardant at a clip has been grounded because the pilot was forced by regulations to rest for two days and authorities need to prep the plane's fire retardant system. Fire officials expect to be able to use the plane Friday.
The Texas wildfires have claimed four lives, a number that could rise as inspections continue.
"Thankfully," for now, said Stradling, "nothing else has been reported in terms of injuries or fatalities."
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Photo: Firefighters knock down a house wall as they attack hot spots near Bastrop, Texas. Credit: Erich Schlegel / Getty Images