Texas Gov. Rick Perry has requested a federal Major Disaster Declaration for his state as a result of widespread wildfires and continuing fire danger across the state. Perry identified 252 out of 254 Texas counties that are presently threatened or impacted by wildfires. Since the wildfire season began, Texas has responded to 7,807 fires across the state that have burned more than 1,528,714 acres and destroyed 244 homes. Rescue efforts have saved 8,514 threatened homes.
A Major Disaster Declaration makes the state eligible for response and recovery assistance from the federal government.
Burn bans are currently active in 195 Texas counties.
Last week, strong northerly winds reignited range fires over Texas threatening many small communities. The entire town of Rotan in northwest Texas was evacuated overnight when fires threatened the community, the Insurance Council of Texas reported. The Texas Forest Service said 50 volunteer fire fighters encircled the town and kept the blaze from entering the city limits.
The Texas Forest Service said they have responded to 78 fires in the past seven days in the loss of nearly one-half million acres of range land.
Nearly all of the fires have occurred in the western half of the state where dry vegetation and winds up to 60 miles per hour have made the fires nearly impossible to contain.
The University of Texas McDonald Observatory near Ft. Davis was threatened by the Rockhouse fire which has destroyed 165,000 acres. That fire is now reported to be more than 60 percent contained and is no longer a threat to the observatory.
In Austin, eight homes were destroyed and 10 others damaged in a fire that broke out on April 17 in the Oak Hill neighborhood. The fire reportedly was started from coals from the unattended camp fire of a homeless person.