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Texas Officials Call for Additional Help as Wildfires Spread [VIDEO]

Firefighting helicopters dump water and flame retardant after loading up with water from a pond at Lost Pines Golf Club as they fight a fire in Bastrop State Park September 6, 2011 in Bastrop, Texas. Several large wildfires have been devastating Bastrop County for the last two days.
Erich Schlegel, Getty Images

Forest service officials are calling on firefighters from outside agencies to help battle fast-moving wildfires in Texas. In the past week, the fires have destroyed more than 1,000 homes.

Fueled by drought conditions and wind gusts from the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee, the massive Bastrop County Complex fire east of Austin is one of the worst in the state’s history. Thousands of residents have been evacuated and few know when, or if, they will be allowed to return to their homes.

“You look at people’s faces around here, and it looks like they’ve been in a war,” Bob Austin told The New York Times. “I talked to an elderly couple in their 80s last night, and they got out with just their clothes and their dog.”

Weary firefighting crews have spent days confronting the flames, but so far have only been able to contain 30 percent of the blaze. The Bastrop fire has grown to at least 34,000 acres. With more dry winds and low humidity forecast for Wednesday, the fire could spread even more.

Since November 2010, firefighters have battled nearly 21,000 wildfires in Texas. More than 180 fires have broken out in the past week alone, killing four people and consuming hundreds of homes. On Monday, the Bastrop fire prompted Gov. Rick Perry to leave South Carolina, where he was campaigning for the Republican nomination for president, and return to Texas to survey the damage.

Although teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency arrived in central Texas on Tuesday, Perry complained about the federal government’s response to the wildfires and called on the Obama administration to expand the scope of disaster relief. Texas recently cut funding for volunteer fire departments by 75 percent as a cost-saving measure.

[The Los Angeles Times]

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