Wildfires continue to scorch Texas
Two Texas towns were burnt to the ground, and more than 200,000 acres and at least 250 buildings were destroyed as grassfires continued to ravage parts of northern Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico on Tuesday.
The north Texas towns of Kokomo and Ringgold, both with populations of less than 100, were completely destroyed.
Dry conditions and high winds are still complicating efforts by firefighting crews to contain the blazes.
Four deaths as a result of the wildfires have also been reported.
According to the Associated Press, firefighters face a threat of windier, warmer weather this week as they battle fast-moving blazes that have virtually destroyed some small towns and charred hundreds of thousands of acres of drought-stricken Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico.
The Associated Press also reports that at least six fires that have burned at least 1,000 acres were still burning on Monday.
Two major active fires still covered about 90,000 acres near San Angelo, destroying 15 buildings in Sterling County.
Firefighters contained a 35,000-acre blaze near the small towns of Carbon, Gorman and Desdemona to just a few hundred acres of open ranch land, according to Mark Pipkin of the Eastland Fire Department.
Outside of Mineral Wells, more than 1,800 acres, 25 buildings and 12 vehicles were claimed.
At least 200 people in Hobbs, N.M. were evacuated from their homes as fires burned more than 53,000 acres of grassland, 11 houses and two businesses. Most of the people were allowed to return to their homes by Monday.
Calmer winds and higher humidity helped control all major wildfires in Oklahoma by Monday, but crews remained on standby.
Gov. Rick Perry traveled to Nacona and Ringgold, two towns in fire-ravaged Montague County where 3,200 residents were evacuated to safety. Perry met with local officials and took a helicopter tour to assess damages.
"Texas is continuing to make every effort to protect lives and property," Perry said. "And we have received much-appreciated aid from other states, including Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Wisconsin, and support from the U.S. Forest Service."
Since Sunday, the state responded to 58 wildfires which destroyed 72 homes and burned almost 50,000 acres of land. Ringgold was particularly hard-hit, with its approximately 100 residents losing 32 homes. To battle these blazes, Texas aircraft flew 122 missions dropping more than 147,350 gallons of fire retardant.
"I want to thank the thousands of fire fighters throughout the state who at great peril have saved the lives and homes of their fellow Texans. Their efforts have been remarkable," Perry said. "Since the fires began, more than 500 homes and entire towns have been saved by our heroic local firefighting crews and a quick and coordinated statewide response."
More than 520 state and out-of-state fire fighters are on the ground helping the thousands of local and volunteer fire fighters. Texas has 97 aircraft fighting the blazes from above, in addition to the 88 bulldozer crews and 32 fire engines fighting the fires from the ground.
Perry issued a statewide declaration of emergency Dec. 27 for all 254 counties due to the extreme wildfire threat, requested the federal Small Business Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make low interest loans available to affected farmers, ranchers and business owners, and requested a Presidential disaster declaration to make impacted counties eligible for federal public assistance.
Perry also warned that the wildfire threat is expected to continue in the days and weeks ahead. Weather conditions are projected to worsen tomorrow, with sustained low humidity and above average temperatures. Forecasters are also predicting high winds, which increase the difficulty of fighting the fires from the air.
"We are preparing statewide for an intense response tomorrow, particularly from the ground," Perry added. "The state is poised to protect communities across the state, with firefighting assets pre-deployed so that we can immediately respond to new wildfire threats wherever they appear."