Wildfires sweep across Texas
US firefighters are battling a series of massive wildfires in Texas that have scorched about a million acres of land.
Fire crews from 34 states have joined local personnel to help fight the fire at Possum Kingdom Lake, which has destroyed about 100 homes.
Around 600 homes and several towns are under threat in the area, with many of the inhabitants already evacuated.
Texas is experiencing its worst drought in almost 50 years, with high winds and soaring temperatures combining to create fires that have killed three people — two volunteer firefighters and a man killed in a car accident.
Forest Service spokeswoman Holly Huffman said a harsh winter and the driest March on record had “combined for an overabundance of tall, dead grass and shrubs that serve as kindling” for the wildfires.
“It’s like trying to stop a tornado on the worst days,” Mark Stanford, fire operations chief for the Texas Forest Service, told the New York Times.
The fires in west Texas cover portions of 36 counties and have been burning for a week.
The 400 residents of Palo Pinto county, about 50 miles west of the city of Fort Worth, which has a population of about 750,000, were ordered to leave on Tuesday night because of the advancing flames, said Trooper Gary Rozzell of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
The county's jail inmates were also evacuated, as was the nearby community of Graford and the small town of Strawn, south of the lake.
However officials were reportedly less concerned about it spreading there, because of wind conditions and barriers like highways and rivers.
In recent days the weather has created something of a respite for the firefighters. As the wind eased, heavy air tankers took the opportunity to drop nearly 160,000 |gallons of retardant.
However, officials are bracing themselves for weather conditions to worsen today, with dropping humidity and high-speed winds expected.
Texas Governor Rick Perry has asked President Barack Obama to issue a ‘major disaster declaration’ for the state in the face of the fires.
Daniel Huckaby, a forecaster at the National Weather Service in Fort Worth, Texas, has warned that some areas would see no rain today, and that the change in weather could increase the danger.
“With the chaotic wind that thunderstorms can produce, and the lightning that they can produce, that can make matters much worse,” he told the Associated Press. But, he said, as the humidity levels increase, “even without the rain, conditions are looking more positive”.