Crews fight major wildfires in Texas, governor tours damage

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 12, 2011 7:41 PM
Crews fight major wildfires in Texas, governor tours damage

Austin, Tex (Reuters) - Firefighters in drought-stricken Texas battled 14 major wildfires on Tuesday and braced for dangerously dry and windy weather conditions on Wednesday.

Governor Rick Perry on Tuesday flew over a part of West Texas where a combination of extreme drought and winds have caused fires in recent days that have killed livestock, burned homes and drawn in crews and equipment from around the state and across the country.

"The devastation of the landscape here is awful to witness, as is the pain felt by families who have lost so much in a very short time -- much of which is simply irreplaceable," Perry said, according to a copy of prepared remarks for a speech he gave on Tuesday in the small town of Merkel.

"For ranchers and farmers, the land is their livelihood, and they're facing a long way back from this catastrophic damage."

Since wildfire season began in mid-November, nearly 1 million acres have burned in Texas and more than 200 homes have been destroyed, the governor's office said. In the past week, more than 330,000 acres have burned, Perry said.

The National Weather Service warned that strong winds and low humidity in the Texas Panhandle "will create extremely critical fire weather conditions in the area" through Wednesday, according to the governor's office. The forecast includes sustained winds of 20 to 25 mph with gusts up to 35 mph.

Perry issued an emergency disaster proclamation on December 21 and renewed it most recently on March 18.

"For those who are displaced by this disaster, we will stand by you and will assist you in the recovery to get you back on your feet," Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, who joined Perry on the tour, said in a statement.

(Reporting by Corrie MacLaggan; Editing by Jerry Norton)