Texas wildfires leave one dead and destroy dozens of homes as blaze burns town of Carbon

Texas Governor Greg Abbott declares disaster in 11 counties worst hit by wildfires

Texas Wildfires Fueled By Gusty Winds Prompt Evacuations
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Wildfires fueled by low humidity and gusty winds in central Texas have claimed one life and destroyed dozens of homes, including in a small town called Carbon.

Approximately 500 homes have been evacuated and at least 50 have burned since the fires erupted earlier this week in and around Eastland County about 100 miles west of Fort Worth.

Sergeant Barbara Fenley of the county sheriff’s office was killed while helping evacuate residents.

“While evacuating people and going door-to-door, Fenley was last heard that she was going to check on an elderly individual,” a statement read.

“With the extreme deteriorating conditions and low visibility from smoke, Sgt Fenley ran off the roadway and was engulfed in the fire. Sgt Fenley gave her life in the service of others and loved her community.”

A relative was presented with a Texas flag by Governor Greg Abbott on Friday. The governor declared a disaster in 11 counties worst hit by the wildfires.

Between 45,000 and 53,000 acres have been burned in four fires southeast of Abilene, collectively known as the Eastland Complex.

The largest, the Kidd Fire, has burned at least 34,000 acres and tore through the town of Carbon on 17 March.

Residents were allowed to return to check on their homes on 18 March with some finding their houses had bee completely destroyed.

The towns of Gorman and Ranger have also been damaged, with the latter reportedly losing its church and several downtown buildings on Thursday.

The other fires in the complex are the Wheatfield Fire which has burn 6,000 acres; the Oak Mott Fire in Comanche and Brown counties, also 6,000 acres; and the Walling Fire, which is approximately 400 acres.

A fifth blaze, the Mariah Ridge Fire in Brown and Callahan counties is just under 600 acres in size, but not considered part of the main complex.

The climate crisis is driving an increase in larger and more erratic wildfires which occur much earlier in the year than in the past.

Angel Lopez Portillo, a spokesperson on the fires with the Texas A&M Forest Service, says in addition to firefighters on the ground, other equipment deployed includes three single engine air tankers, two National Guard Blackhawk helicopters, one other large Type 1 helicopter, and three large fixed wing air tankers.

Winds driving the fires eased on Friday and Saturday allowing for the aerial support, but will increase again on Sunday to 20mph, with gusts of 28mph.

Fortunately rain is forecast for Monday, although Texas A&M Forest Services warns that fires could also affect parts of Oklahoma and Kansas. Nebraska has also warned of an extreme fire risk.

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