Texas Fires Slow, but Devastation Remains

Ted Mann
Texas Fires Slow, but Devastation Remains

The advance of one of Texas' massive wildfire appears to be stopped, state officials said Friday, as firefighters continued to put down flareups of one blaze that destroyed almost 1,400 homes. Other fires have also slowed, though their threat remains.

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But the reckoning of damage from the Bastrop fire and others across the center of the state is just beginning.

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"We believe the forward progress (of the fire) has been stopped, thank God for that," Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said to residents who had been evacuated from their homes, according to the Associated Press. But fires and power outages in the drought-ridden areas east of Austin continue, and damage assessments are beginning to roll in. The state's fire service estimates that the cost of fighting the Bastrop fire will be at least $1.25 million, but that figure doesn't include estimates of property damage in the 35,000 acres the fire has burned.

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The emotional costs are growing too. In the Austin American-Statesman, residents fret about the fate of pets and work animals, but are not allowed to return to their homes. Many of those that have returned have found devastation.

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Some Spicewood residents found ashen rubble where their homes once stood. The fire claimed a duplex that Randy Simoneaus was building, and it also scorched several surrounding acres, including a spring-fed ravine.

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"That's why I bought this (property)," Simoneaus said. "Now it looks like the moon."

Raw emotions after the blaze are "as ubiquitous as charred pine trees," the paper reports.

President Barack Obama proclaimed a major disaster area in parts of Texas, clearing the way for federal aid. Gov. Rick Perry, who is seeking the Republican nomination to run against Obama in 2012, accused the government of ignoring his state's drought.