Perry Tours Panhandle Devastation as Texas Continues Wildfire Fight
Gov. Rick Perry today toured areas of the Texas Panhandle that have been ravaged by wildfires since Sunday. Nine active fires are currently burning an estimated 820,000 acres in the region.
"What I witnessed today was devastating," Perry said. "For miles in every direction, the land is charred and, in many cases, still smoldering. The losses to our state are staggering - from the 11 people who lost their lives to livestock, homes and ranches destroyed."
Perry's aerial tour covered McLean, Wheeler, Miami, Pampa and Skellytown, some of the hardest hit communities in the Panhandle.
After his aerial tour, Perry was briefed at the emergency operations center in Amarillo on firefighting operations.
"With the help of a number of generous communities, we have deployed more than 35 heavy fire engines, 35 brush trucks, about 50 bulldozer crews, four water tankers and the largest helicopter in the nation with a capacity to hold 3,000 gallons of fire retardant," Perry said. "Not only have Texas communities come to the rescue of their neighbors in need, so have an amazing number of states - 29 to be precise, from as far away as Maine - by providing fire fighters and equipment to stop the spread of these fires."
In the past 24 hours, Texas has responded to 294 new fires which destroyed two homes and forced the evacuation of six individuals. Firefighting aircraft flew 205 missions and dropped nearly 140,000 gallons of fire retardant. Those efforts are credited with saving 47 homes.
Perry also urged Texans to use caution in the coming days.
"My message to Texans is two-fold: first, don't delay in getting to safety if your property is considered at risk because these fires spread faster than anyone can run," Perry said. "Second, Texas remains a tinderbox, so people need to use extra caution to avoid starting an accidental blaze."
The Panhandle fires have claimed 11 lives since Sunday. Early estimates suggest up to 10,000 livestock have also been lost.
Since Dec. 26, more than 10,866 separate wildfires in Texas have burned nearly 5 million acres and destroyed 399 homes.
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