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Fierce Texas wildfire destroys 300 homes - CNN.com
Bastrop, Texas (CNN) -- An unchecked wildfire southeast of Austin, Texas, destroyed 300 homes, scorched thousands of acres and stretched across a 16-mile area Monday, authorities said.
Another blaze in eastern Texas killed a mother and her 18-month-old child when flames engulfed their mobile home Sunday near Gladewater, the Gregg County Sheriff's Department said.
"The wildfire situation in Texas is severe and all necessary state resources are being made available to protect lives and property," Gov. Rick Perry said in a statement. "I urge Texans to take extreme caution as we continue to see the devastating effects of sweeping wildfires impacting both rural and urban areas of the state."
There are more than 35 fires burning across the state, the Texas Forest Service said Monday. Officials said low relative humidity and strong winds from Lee, which made landfall as a tropical storm but has weakened to a tropical depression, fanned the flames.
'There's nothing left of these houses' Winds whip up Texas wildfires
The outbreak of wildfires prompted Perry to head back to Texas from South Carolina, where he was scheduled to participate in a forum for Republican presidential candidates.
Meanwhile, the massive, uncontained fire in Bastrop County, near Austin, was the state's largest on Monday. In less than a day, it had destroyed 300 homes and threatened about 1,000 others, officials with the forest service's incident management team reported. About 5,000 residents evacuated as flames approached, officials said.
Dark clouds of smoke billowing across the sky could be seen miles away from the fire Monday.
"Today is expected to be as bad, if not worse, than yesterday," Bastrop City Manager Mike Talbot told reporters.
Satellite images Monday showed the fire stretching over about 25,000 acres, jumping the Colorado River and a highway, the Forest Service said.
More evacuations are likely as the fire spreads, officials said. Already, hundreds of people are in shelters as dangerous flames keep them from finding out whether their homes survived.
"It was like a storm coming through. You could smell the earth burning," said Julian Ochoa, who was evacuated from a Bastrop subdivision Sunday afternoon.
The 23-year-old grabbed his dog, a toothbrush, his birth certificate and a few pictures as he left. He didn't know Sunday what happened to his home.
"All of Bastrop is a giant smoke cloud," he said.
Firefighters planned to use Black Hawk helicopters to douse flames with a mixture of water and fire retardant Monday morning, the incident management team said. Tanker trucks will also be used to battle the blaze.
The fire forced parts of state highways 71 and 21 to shut and additional road closures were expected, fire officials said Sunday.
At least 56 new fires across Texas on Sunday burned about 30,000 acres, the state's fire service said. Fires were reported in at least 17 counties.
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