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Texas Firefighters Gaining Ground

Firefighters StruggleAs the state of Texas battles its longest, most severe drought in recent history, firefighters are also enduring a battle of their own – one of the most destructive wildfires in the state’s history.  The air through much of the state smells of pine and cedar as the trees burn.

So far, the fire has destroyed more than 800 homes forcing families to relocate to other areas.  Elite search teams have been deployed to find any victims near the Bastrop area.  The blackened region stretches about 45 square miles and the haze can be seen in Austin, the state’s capital, just 25 miles east.

The fire, known as Bastrop County Complex fire, is about 34,000 acres and has caused more than 5,000 people to move out in a rush.  Though the firefighters have been having trouble, as recent as Wednesday evening they’ve made some headway.  Part of the problem was Tropical Storm Lee, which actually fanned the flames making everything worse.

As the storm moved out, firefighters gained ground, which has many people surprised.  Sure, the grass and trees are still very dry from the drought and the humidity is pretty low, the lack of winds from the tropical storm is allowing firefighters to put out much of the blaze.

Surprisingly, this fire is actually one of almost 200 fires that broke out in the last week.  So far, only four people have been killed across Texas but thousands have lost their homes and have moved into temporary shelters or relatives’ homes.  But the blaze has burned so hot the rescue team deployed is one of the best.

Texas Task Force 1 is a special rescue team that was used in New York City shortly after the brutal attacks of 9/11 as well as in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to find survivors and retrieve bodies.  In addition to this task force, more than 1,200 firefighters are currently working around the clock to put out the fire.

As mentioned, the Bastrop fire is one of the worst Texas has seen in a really long time.  At its widest point, it spans 24 miles long and 20 miles wide.  As firefighters continue to battle the blaze, officials continue to post a list of homes confirmed destroyed at local shelters as well as in a command center.  However, the list only represents a fraction of homes lost.

Many residents are making efforts to protect their homes before moving out.  In addition to packing up cherished belongings such as pictures and keepsakes, many people are pumping water from their swimming pools and dousing their homes and the surrounding bush.  Whether this will help, no one knows until the blaze reaches the area.

The fire continues to blaze, more than a week after breaking out.  Several heavy tanker planes as well as firefighters on the ground continue to work around the clock to put the fire out.  The main blame for the fierce nature of these fires is placed at the door of the recent drought.

Lance Grooms

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