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Central Texas wildfire destroys nearly 800 homes

September 7, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A more than 33,000-acre wildfire in central Texas has left two people dead and destroyed nearly 800 homes, the Texas Forest Service said on Wednesday.

Firefighters began to gain control of the wind-stoked blaze that has caused thousands of people to flee. Crews managed to bring the fire to about 30 percent containment, and officials anticipated more progress throughout the day.

As the crisis unfolded, Gov. Rick Perry headed to Simi Valley for a GOP presidential debate.

The Bastrop fire is the most serious and dangerous out of more than 180 wildfires that have erupted across Texas in the last week.

Firefighters finally got a reprieve Tuesday from winds pushed in by Tropical Storm Lee that whipped the blaze into an inferno over the weekend.

The fires mark one of the most devastating wildfire outbreaks in state history. They have destroyed more than 1,000 homes, caused four deaths and pulled the state's firefighting ranks to the limit.

The forest service said it responded to 19 new fires Wednesday totaling 1,490 acres across the state, bringing the total acreage consumed over the past week to more than 130,000 acres.

The disaster is blamed largely on Texas' yearlong drought, one of the most severe dry spells the state has ever seen.

Texas Task Force 1, an elite search team that was sent to New York following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, was mobilized in Bastrop.

See photos of the wildfires burning in Texas.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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