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Monday, April 18, 2011

Wild fires plaguing Texas

Dallas (CNN) -- Texas authorities have made an arrest in connection with one of hundreds of blazes scorching the state in what a Forest Service official called the "perfect storm for wildfires."

A man has been arrested and charged with reckless endangerment, which is a felony under Texas law, Austin Fire Department Battalion Chief Palmer Buck said early Monday. The man, whom authorities did not immediately identify, is being held under a $50,000 bond.

According to Buck, the man started a campfire at a homeless camp in a remote area, which got out of control and prompted evacuations. The fire has burned about 60 acres and raised concerns as it crept near 100 homes, ten businesses and Austin Community College.

Firefighters are battling some of the driest conditions Texas has seen in nearly a century.

April Saginor, a spokeswoman with the Texas Forest Service, said crews were having difficulty getting hundreds of blazes under control due to a rare combination of strong winds, unseasonably warm temperatures and low humidity. Conditions this spring are the driest they've been in Texas since 1917, she said.

Authorities have responded to 7,807 fires across more than 1.5 million acres since this year's wildfire season began, Gov. Rick Perry wrote in a letter late Saturday to President Barack Obama. Perry requested that the federal government declare Texas a disaster area. Fires have affected all but two of the state's 254 counties.
On Sunday, some 1,300 personnel representing 34 states were on the front lines battling these fires. Barring a drastic and sustained change in conditions, Saginor said she expects the fight to continue for several months more.

"We're looking at this as a marathon, not a sprint," she said. "We're very committed to this."


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