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Winds fueling massive Texas wildfire finally calm

 Brothers Ben, left, and Nathan Clements survey their fire-destroyed home, Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011, in Bastrop, Texas. The Clements lost their home to ...
 Dave Bailey looks through the ashes of his home that was destroyed by wildfires, Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011, in Bastrop, Texas.   More than 1,000 homes h...
 Sisters Laura, left, and Michelle Clements survey their fire-destroyed home, Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011, in Bastrop, Texas. The Clements lost their home ...
 Car collector John Chapman surveys the losses at his home, Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011, in Bastrop, Texas. Chapman lost more than 175 cars to the wildfire...
 Willie Clements surveys his fire-destroyed home, Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011, in Bastrop, Texas. Clements lost his home to fires Monday. More than 1,000 h...
 Car collector John Chapman surveys the losses at his home, Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011, in Bastrop, Texas. Chapman lost more than 175 cars to the wildfire...
 This photo provided by Texas Parks and Wildlife shows a fire burning in Bastrop State Park in Bastrop, Texas. More than 1,000 homes have been destroy...
 This photo provided by Texas Parks and Wildlife shows the remains of a home burned in the Colovista area of Bastrop, Texas. More than 1,000 homes hav...
 Fire damage is seen in an aerial image taken over the wildfires in the Bastrop, Texas area Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011.   More than 1,000 homes have been ...
 Laura Clements, left, and brother Ben, survey their fire-destroyed home, Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011, in Bastrop, Texas. The Clements lost their home to f...
 Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who cut short a presidential campaign trip to South Carolina to return to help oversee firefighting efforts in Texas, speaks d...

Texas Wildfires

Brothers Ben, left, and Nathan Clements survey their fire-destroyed home, Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011, in Bastrop, Texas. The Clements lost their home to ...

Texas Wildfires

Dave Bailey looks through the ashes of his home that was destroyed by wildfires, Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011, in Bastrop, Texas. More than 1,000 homes h...

APTOPIX Texas Wildfires

Sisters Laura, left, and Michelle Clements survey their fire-destroyed home, Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011, in Bastrop, Texas. The Clements lost their home ...

Texas Wildfires

Car collector John Chapman surveys the losses at his home, Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011, in Bastrop, Texas. Chapman lost more than 175 cars to the wildfire...

Texas Wildfires

Willie Clements surveys his fire-destroyed home, Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011, in Bastrop, Texas. Clements lost his home to fires Monday. More than 1,000 h...

Texas Wildfires

Car collector John Chapman surveys the losses at his home, Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011, in Bastrop, Texas. Chapman lost more than 175 cars to the wildfire...

Texas Wildfires

This photo provided by Texas Parks and Wildlife shows a fire burning in Bastrop State Park in Bastrop, Texas. More than 1,000 homes have been destroy...

Texas Wildfires

This photo provided by Texas Parks and Wildlife shows the remains of a home burned in the Colovista area of Bastrop, Texas. More than 1,000 homes hav...

Texas Wildfires

Fire damage is seen in an aerial image taken over the wildfires in the Bastrop, Texas area Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011. More than 1,000 homes have been ...

Texas Wildfires

Laura Clements, left, and brother Ben, survey their fire-destroyed home, Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011, in Bastrop, Texas. The Clements lost their home to f...

Texas Wildfires

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who cut short a presidential campaign trip to South Carolina to return to help oversee firefighting efforts in Texas, speaks d...

One of the most destructive wildfires in Texas history is slowing down thanks in part to calming winds, but stretched-thin firefighting crews have yet to gain any control of the blaze that is plowing across rain-starved grasslands now littered with hundreds of charred homes.
The blaze is the most catastrophic of the more than 180 fires that have erupted in the past week across Texas, marking one of the most devastating wildfire outbreaks in state history, and confronting Gov. Rick Perry with a major disaster at home just as the Republican presidential contest heats up.
The fires have destroyed more than 1,000 homes, caused four deaths and pulled the state's firefighting ranks to the limit.
Crews finally got a reprieve Tuesday from winds pushed in by Tropical Storm Lee that whipped the blaze into an inferno over the weekend. Increased humidity was moving in overnight, and officials were expected to report some containment in the morning, Texas Forest Service spokesman John Nichols said.
"Tonight should be a good night, tomorrow should be a good day _ we hope," Nichols said late Tuesday. "The reason why it hasn't been able to be contained is the wind."
Texas Gov. Rick Perry cut short a high-profile presidential campaign trip to South Carolina to deal with the crisis, and on Tuesday toured a blackened area near Bastrop, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) from Austin. He later deployed Texas Task Force 1, the same search team sent to New York following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
"Pretty powerful visuals of individuals who lost everything," Perry said after the tour. "The magnitude of these losses are pretty stunning."
The conservative Republican said he expects federal assistance with the wildfires but complained that red tape was keeping available bulldozers and other heavy equipment at the Army's Fort Hood, about 75 miles (120 kilometers) from Bastrop. The post was fighting its own 3,700-acre (1497-hectare) blaze.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the Obama administration has approved seven federal grants to help Texas with the latest wildfires.
About 1,200 firefighters battled the blazes, including crews from as far away as California and Oregon. Five heavy tanker planes, some from the federal government, and three aircraft capable of scooping 1,500 gallons of lake water at a time also helped.
The disaster is blamed largely on Texas' yearlong drought, one of the most severe dry spells the state has ever seen. The fire in Bastrop County is the most devastating wildfire in Texas in more than a decade, eclipsing a blaze that destroyed 168 homes in North Texas in April.
At least 11 other fires exceeded 1,000 acres on Tuesday.
In at least one neighborhood in Bastrop, flames hop-scotched a street where houses were tucked among oaks, pines and cedar trees. The Postal Service delivered mail to burned homes where only mailboxes were left standing.
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Michael Graczyk reported from Houston. Also contributing to this story were Associated Press reporters Jamie Stengle, Danny Robbins and Schuyler Dixon in Dallas, Betsy Blaney in Lubbock, Will Weissert in Austin, Paul Weber in San Antonio, and AP Photographer Eric Gay in Bastrop.


Updated : 2021-03-03 16:43 GMT+08:00