Central Texas wildfires
Fires continue to rage in central Texas; video shows flames' ferocity
The Bastrop fires have turned deadly. According to Bastrop County Judge Ronnie McDonald, two people were found dead Tuesday. There is no information on how they died, nor are officials identifying the victims other than to say they were not public safety personnel. Next of kin had not yet been notified.
The Bastrop fire continues to grow, now reaching 34,000 acres, and it is still burning completely out of control. It covers an area 24 miles long and 20 miles wide with 0% containment. The fire has now claimed 550 homes and rages unabated.
"You all [in Bastrop] are the tip of the spear today. This is the worst wildfire season in the history of the Lone Star state," said Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples at an afternoon press conference.
The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department released this video showing how fast this fire can move through dry grass and trees.
Bastrop school leaders cancelled classes for the rest of the week as weary firefighters brave the flames and more evacuations may have to be called; 20 neighborhoods have been cleared already.
In Leander, law enforcement officials say the fires there may have been intentionally set by arsonists. The Leander fire marshal described four teens, two boys and two girls as suspects. The Moonglow fire, as it's called, caused an estimated $1.4 million in damage.
Steiner Ranch residents returned to their homes today and were met by volunteers delivering food and supplies.
"We decided jointly to let people in early so they could get back to their normal lives. So people are going to have to work with firefighters in their back yards," said Lake Travis Fire Chief Jim Linardos. "We're still working on containing this fire."
The Steiner Ranch fire is now only 45% contained, and not under control—60 firefighters are still actively working in the subdivision, and 24 homes were lost, though the heroic efforts of firefighters saved over 300 homes. Investigators believe the fire started by wind causing high voltage power lines to rub against each other, sending sparks into tinder dry grass.
"This is not a grass fire. The trees are burning, the brush is burning and everything else is burning," Lindaros said. "They take a long time to consume and a long time to put out. We're going to have smoke in the area for the next three to five days."
Tuesday afternoon Austin's Fire Department released this video of the destruction: