28 homes destroyed in Central Texas wildfire

28 homes destroyed in Central Texas wildfire

02 March 2009

published by www.chron.com

BASTROP, Texas — A Central Texas wildfire that has destroyed 28 homes and a dozen businesses was about 70 percent contained Monday, officials said.

The blaze, fueled by severely dry grass, brush and trees, has scorched about 1,200 acres since it was started Saturday by a fallen power line, Texas Forest Service spokesman Lewis Kearney said.

No injuries have been reported. The homes were scattered throughout incorporated land in Bastrop County, about 6 miles east of the city of Bastrop, Mayor Terry Orr said.

Residents who lost their homes are staying in a shelter in Smithville, with friends or relatives or in hotels, he said.

“It is a horrible thing,” Orr said. “When it’s your business, your home, it’s major.”

The wildfire is the latest of thousands this year in drought-stricken Texas. Since Jan. 1, firefighters have battled 3,107 wildfires that have scorched almost 108,800 acres. About 96 homes have been destroyed.

On Monday, firefighters had a control line around the fire using bulldozers and manpower to dig ditches to contain flames, Kearney said. Three homes were lost since early Sunday evening, Kearney said.

Some of the destroyed businesses — including a cafe, a gift shop and an antiques store — were in a small business center, Orr said.

A 20-person crew from North Carolina was expected to be on the scene late Monday to help with mop-up duties.

A large helicopter, capable of dropping about 1,300 gallons in one pass, continued to be used Monday, Kearney said. Two National Guard helicopters were used Sunday to drop water on the blaze near Bastrop and Smithville.

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

No rain was forecast across Texas for the next several days and temperatures in some parts of the state were expected to be in the 80s.

Bastrop is about 30 miles southeast of Austin.

Meanwhile, firefighters dealt with a number of smaller wildfires throughout the state. A portion of U.S. Highway 82 in Archer County in North Texas was closed for a time because of smoke from a fire that burned 175 acres. A Union Pacific freight train was delayed for about an hour in Eastland County west of Fort Worth by a 40-acre fire. Two barns were destroyed in a blaze in Potter County in the Panhandle.

Several small fires were reported in East Texas.

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