500 Texas homes destroyed by wildfires

By Laura Brown - 06 Sep 2011 9:14:0 GMT
500 Texas homes destroyed by wildfires

Wildfires have destroyed almost 500 homes in Texas, as strong winds hamper the ability of firefighters to control the blaze.

Thousands of people have been evacuated in Central Texas as the fires, which started or dry farmland and has been exacerbated by the strong winds caused by Hurricane Lee, have raged across 25,000 acres.

The main evacuations have taken place in Bastrop County, along the Colorado River where almost 5000 have fled their homes with 400 living in emergency shelters.

Firefighters and authorities have been tackling the fires using helicopters and planes laden with water. The unpredictability of the blaze, largely due to weather implications, is the principal concern of Texas Forest Spokesman John Nichols, "You have to be optimistic and at the same time prepared for the worst." The state's governor says 40 Texas Forest Service aircraft is involved in tackling the fires, with military aircraft also taking to the skies.

The National Weather Service has issued a forecast predicting dry conditions to continue in the coming days.

The fire season begins early in the summer. Often drought conditions, coupled with storm season increases the risk of wildfires, which is why all but three of Texas' 254 counties ban outdoor burning, including campfires. So far officials have dealt with 21,000 fires this year. The latest crisis began on Sunday as 63 fires broke out in a matter of days. Texas is currently experiencing its worst drought for a generation.

As well as impacting on residents, the fires are likely to have an ecological effect. It is estimated by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department that two thirds of Bastrop Park has burned. Endangered species including Houston toads as well as historic rock and stone buildings are under threat.

Top Image Credit: Wildfires © Matthew Hill Photography