New wildfires in central Texas over the Labor Day weekend destroyed hundreds of homes and scorched thousands of acres as strong north winds and extremely dry conditions have whipped the fires into uncontrollable situations.
At least three wildfires near Austin in central Texas have left many residents in the area scrambling for shelter as the Travis County blazes continue raging.
A wildfire which began east of Austin, near Bastrop, has charred at least 20,000 acres and is 16 miles long and six miles wide. A dry front which moved through Texas late Saturday night, combined with winds from Tropical Storm Lee have combined in providing strong and gusty winds with low humidity from the lingering drought as firefighters continue struggling with the blaze that was zero percent contained as of 6 a.m. Monday.
The Bastrop County Complex fire has jumped the Colorado River twice and the Texas Forest Service says as many as 300 homes have been destroyed. According to MODIS satellite imagery, the fire has also jumped Highway 95 and is 25,000 acres.
Among the neighborhoods under mandatory evacuation are Tahitian Village, Colovista and the Colony. The Austin American Statesman reports residents have been told to seek shelter at Bastrop Middle School, Grace Lutheran Church in Smithville, the First Baptist Church in Smithville and the Smithville Recreation Center.
The fire began around 2 p.m. Sunday in the Circle D subdivision, merging with another fire and crossing over Texas 21 and Texas 71. There have been no reports of injuries as of Monday morning.
The Bastrop fire is being called a major disaster. Mark Stanford, fire chief with the Texas Forest Service, said: “It’s catastrophic. It’s a major natural disaster,” the Statesman reports.
The Steiner Ranch fire, also in Travis County has burned 150 acres and also has zero containment. More than 1,000 homes are under mandatory evacuation, with at least 25 homes destroyed.
Another fire in Travis County, the Pedernales Bend fire, has burned 7,000 acres. TFS reports an unknown containment. The fire has destroyed twenty homes and damaged 30 more. An evacuation center has been set up at Dripping Springs Middle School.
On Sunday, TFS spokeswoman Lexi Maxwell said: “This was far and away the most catastrophic day for central Texas fires,” according to the Statesman.
The Hodde fire near Pflugerville, just north of Austin, burned more than 325 acres as of late Sunday night and is now contained. Two hundred homes were evacuated and no homes were reported lost.