Friday, September 9, 2011
Parts of Texas have been scorched by sweeping wildfires this week. Officials state that a wildfire which swept much of central Texas this week destroyed at least 1,400 homes and forced about 5,000 people to evacuate to safety. An official with the Texas Forestry Services told news sources on Thursday that much of that fire has been contained.
Officials have speculated that this fire alone has destroyed more homes than any other wildfire on record in the state. Officials are welcoming dropping temperatures, stating this will increase their ability to fight the fires effectively. A converted DC-10 aircraft was recently made available to fire authorities, but cannot be used until Friday as workers still need to time to prepare on-board equipment.
One of the two fatalities in the central part of the state has been identified as Michael Troy Farr, 49, who died at his home. Earlier in the week, a woman and her infant died in a related blaze that quickly engulfed their home located near the city of Gladewater, located in the eastern part of the state. On Thursday, officials warned that East Texas has become the center of wildfire activity in the state.
At least 170 wildfires have ravaged much of the state over the past week. On Tuesday, a thick haze of smoke enveloped the city of Tyler for several hours, forcing school officials to cancel all outdoor sports activities. Since late 2010 the overall devastation of wildfires in the state is estimated to cost at least US$216 million (£136 million,€157.5 million) in firefighting expenses. The state’s Lieutenant Governor, David Dewhurst, who is the acting governor in Governor Perry’s absence, indicated he will ask the federal government to declare Texas a major disaster area. President Obama has also promised to provide needed assistance to local officials.