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Texas Firefighters Continue Efforts in Panhandle

Location: Austin, TX

Texas Firefighters Continue Efforts in Panhandle

AUSTIN - Gov. Rick Perry today said firefighters from across Texas are joining the state-led effort to battle the Panhandle wildfires. Ten fires, which continue to be fueled by high winds and low humidity, are currently burning about 785,000 acres in the region.

"We remain focused on preventing new fires and containing existing fires," Perry said. "We made progress overnight in battling some of the fires, and even more firefighters and equipment are headed to the Panhandle to continue the fight. Fire departments from across Texas sent much-needed brush trucks, engine crews, tankers and command vehicles."

Fire departments from Texas communities have provided 35 brush trucks, 15 heavy fire engines, four water tankers and eight command vehicles, which contain communications equipment and serve as mobile emergency command posts. These add to the fleet of 28 aircraft, 54 bulldozer crews, and 17 heavy fire engines the state has deployed against the Panhandle blazes. The state is fighting the blazes from the air with the largest helicopter in the nation, which holds 3,000 gallons of fire retardant. Twenty-nine states have provided support.

Perry will travel to the fire-ravaged region on Thursday, where he will meet with local officials and emergency personnel.

In the past 24 hours, Texas has responded to 207 new fires which burned nearly 24,000 acres. Firefighting aircraft have flown 1,710 missions and dropped nearly 230,000 gallons of fire retardant. Those efforts are credited with saving about 112 homes.

The Panhandle fires have claimed 11 lives and injured three fire fighters since Sunday. There are no new reports of destroyed homes or evacuations. Early estimates suggest up to 10,000 livestock have also been lost.

"We extend prayers of comfort to the families of the victims of this tragedy," Perry said. "They remain in Anita's and my thoughts."

Since Dec. 26, more than 10,572 separate wildfires in Texas have burned more than 3.7 million acres and destroyed 397 homes.

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