Central Texas Wildfire Destroys Homes, Businesses

March 4, 2009

A wildfire that began Saturday, Feb. 28, and was fueled by high winds, grass, brush and trees has destroyed at least fire destroyed 28 homes, 12 businesses and more than 20 outbuildings in Central Texas.

The fire was about 70 percent contained by Sunday afternoon, Texas Forest Service spokesman Lewis Kearney said. A 20-person firefighting crew came from North Carolina to help with mop-up duties, as did firefighters from various parts of Texas.

Businesses that were lost in the fire included a cafe and a gift shop.

No additional structures were under threat on Sunday, Kearney said, and residents who were evacuated during the night were being escorted back into the area to assess their property. Two of three evacuation shelters were closed.

Officials say two National Guard helicopters joined other aircraft Sunday in dropping water on the blaze near the towns of Bastrop and Smithville.

Gov. Rick Perry has activated state resources, including four Blackhawk helicopters equipped to drop water and fire retardant, firefighters and equipment.

The wildfire has charred just over a square mile since it was started Saturday by a fallen power line.

Firefighters were also battling a 200-acre pasture fire in Dimmit County in southwest Texas on Sunday. No structures were under threat, Kearney said. Several smaller fires were being fought in East Texas.

Bastrop is about 30 miles southeast of Austin.

The governor’s office reported that since Jan. 1, 2009, 3,685 wildfires have burned 118,061 acres of land across the state. These fires have threatened 1,763 homes, firefighters have saved 1,630 homes, and 57 homes were lost.

As of Feb. 27, 201 counties were threatened by wildfire conditions where local leaders have issued burn bans, which prohibit all types of outdoor burning.

Gov. Perry recently renewed the state disaster proclamation for counties threatened by wildfire conditions. He also sent a letter to the president requesting direct federal assistance to fund statewide efforts to combat the wildfire threat.

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