More wild fires erupt in Texas

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 11, 2011 6:11 PM
More wild fires erupt in Texas

AUSTIN, Tex (Reuters) - Six new fires erupted in Texas on Monday while more out-of-state firefighting reinforcements were dispatched to try to gain control in a state that has lost nearly 600,000 acres to wild fires since February 22.

The latest fires, including a 25,000-acre blaze in Brewster County on the U.S.-Mexican border, convinced authorities to bring in 10 additional 20-person crews and more aircraft and fire engines from outside the state.

In the past week alone, fires have burned 309,000 acres, from the Panhandle and high plains in the northwest to the pine woods in the east and the dry brushlands of the border.

That's not counting fires volunteer fire departments have put out, said Texas Forest Service spokesman Alan Craft.

"The winds are just beating us down," said Michael Isbell, emergency operations coordinator in Garza County, southeast of Lubbock.

Since February 22, when the effects of the severe drought first began taking hold, 107 homes have been destroyed in Texas, Craft said.

In Midland County, where fire has consumed 40 homes and large stretches of dry, brittle grassland, rancher John Rutherford said grass is money in the bank to cattlemen.

"You can't feed your cattle if you don't have any grass on there," he said.

Even though rain fell in parts of Texas on Sunday, it wasn't enough to do much good, Craft said. The short-term forecast for rain is not favorable, he added.

As for when the fire crisis might end, "it all depends on the weather," Craft said.

Firefighters from 25 other states have come to Texas to help, and on Monday afternoon six substantial fires covering more 250,000 acres continued to burn, with some only half contained and others completely uncontained, Craft said.

"We'll be out there for as long as it takes," said firefighter Rick Nesser, who came from the Dallas area to help with the Midland fire. "We may have to rotate crews in and out. It's going to be a while."

(Reporting by Steve Olafson and Jim Forsyth; Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Jerry Norton)