An outbreak of wildfires around several small Texas communities has burned at least 50 homes, killed the sheriff’s deputy and left a trail of charred vehicles, ash-filled homes and scorched grass.
Several wildfires coalesced to form a complex that continued to burn Saturday near Eastland, about 120 miles west of Dallas. Gov. Greg Abbott has declared a disaster in the 11 counties hardest hit by wildfires fueled by months of dry weather and high winds.
The Eastland County Sheriff’s Office said the fire killed the Deputy Sgt. Barbara Fenley, who was going door to door, forcing residents to evacuate their homes on Thursday.
“With the extreme deteriorating conditions and low visibility due to smoke, Sgt. Fenley fled the roadway and was engulfed in the fire,” the sheriff’s statement read.
With winds expected to ease on Saturday, fire crews hoped to make progress against the blazes, said Angel Lopez, spokesman for the firefighting task force. But with gusty winds expected to return on Sunday, the threat of wildfires in west and central Texas could once again reach critical levels, Lopez said.
Smaller fires burned in other parts of Texas amid low humidity and high winds.
About 15% of the fires at the Eastland complex were under control as of Saturday morning, according to the National Wildfire Coordinating Group. More than 45,000 acres have burned, officials said at a Friday news conference.
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Photos from the USA TODAY Network show the destruction:
Contributor: The Associated Press; Brian Bethel, Abilene Reporter-News