Massive Wildfires Sweep Texas: 17,000 Acres Decimated, 300 Homes Destroyed, 2 Dead


Photo credit: DVIDSHUB via Flickr/CC BY

Labor Day has brought ill tidings to drought-strangled Texas. While most Americans are out enjoying barbeques, picnics, or beach days, Texans are keeping their eyes locked on dozens of massive wind-driven wildfires, especially the one that is spiraling out of control just southeast of Austin. It has burnt over 17,000 acres so far and has charred 300 homes. Another fire in the Northeast left two people dead.

It is spreading so fast, disaster responders say, that it is impossible to fight from the ground. It is currently "zero percent" contained, according to state officials. Here's the Associated Press:

A wildfire burning southeast of Austin, Texas, destroyed about 300 homes and was advancing unchecked on Monday through parched ranchland along a 16-mile front, authorities said.

The fire, one of dozens that crews were battling throughout the drought-stricken state, had blackened some 17,500 acres but was not threatening the state capital, as it was about 30 miles from the city and headed the opposite way. But the ferocity and speed with which it was moving made it unsafe to fight from the ground, Texas Forest Service spokeswoman Jan Amen said.

"It's a monster, and it's zero percent contained" Amen said.

A mother and her 18 month-old daughter were trapped in a mobile home that was engulfed in flames.

This is all both tragic and terrifying, and yet another dose of misery for a state that is in the midst of enduring a record-shattering one-year drought. Governor and GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry, whose efforts to address the droughts have thus far included asking residents to pray for rain, has returned to the state to oversee disaster response.

As human-induced climate change continues to progress, the conditions for such wildfires will only worsen in coming years. There will be less rain, more aridity, and higher temperatures -- parched conditions that will increasingly threaten the population of Texas and the Southwest.

Governor Perry believes that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by scientists, and has made a key plank of his campaign platform eliminating environmental regulations and cutting funding for climate and weather research that would help mitigate global warming.

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