Texas wildfires scorch 2,390 square miles

April 28, 2011 at 12:21 PM
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas, April 28 (UPI) -- Texas wildfires have scorched more than 2,390 square miles across the drought-stricken state, the Texas Forest Service told United Press International Thursday.

"The state has responded to 886 fires that have burned 1.53 million acres," spokeswoman April Saginor told UPI in an e-mail. The acreage figure translates to slightly more than 2,390 square miles.

Three people were reported killed in the blazes, including two volunteer firefighters, and an estimated 400 homes were destroyed, officials said. Dozens of other homes and ranches were threatened.

The service said Thursday it was "working on 15 major fires burning more than 664,000 acres" in 17 counties.

Firefighters from 34 states fought the blazes on the ground and from the air, with helicopters fitted with tanks, known as helitankers, and with air tankers, also known as water bombers, dropping hundreds of thousands of gallons of retardant on the blazes.

The weather has not cooperated, with low humidity and heightened winds making containment difficult, the forest service said. The weather was forecast to stay dry till Monday, when isolated thunderstorms were predicted for some areas.

Ninety percent of the windswept fires were started by humans, officials said. But the conditions for the fires' ravenous growth were laid last year, when fall rains prompted abundant growth of grasses and other vegetation that then froze and died in the winter.

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