One of the worst wildfire outbreaks in Texan history has destroyed more than 1,000 homes and killed at least four people so far as fires raged for the past week.
About 1200 firefighters from as far away as Oregon are battling blazes as Governor Rick Perry is faced with the disaster just as the Republican presidential contest begins, the Associated Press reports.
More than 180 fires have erupted in the past week across the state, with nearly 600 homes ruined in one catastrophic blaze in and around Bastrop, near Austin, that continued to rage on Tuesday for a third day, the Guardian reports.
Homes were reduced to metal roofing and smoldering ash, Associated Press reports.
Tropical Storm Lee's winds whipped the fire into an inferno over the weekend, stretching across 33,000 acres, and forcing 5000 people to flee their homes, CNN reports.
The Bastrop fire - the most devastating blaze in Texas in a decade - killed at least two, bringing the overall death toll to at least four.
The Guardian reports:
Perry cut short a presidential campaign trip to South Carolina to deal with the crisis. On Tuesday, he toured a blackened area near Bastrop, and later deployed the state's elite search team to the area to look for more possible victims. Texas Task Force 1 is the same outfit sent to New York after the September 11 terrorist attacks and to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
"[There are] pretty powerful visuals of individuals who lost everything," he said after the tour. "The magnitude of these losses are pretty stunning."
The governor would not say whether he would take part in Wednesday evening's Republican presidential debate in California, explaining that he was "substantially more concerned about making sure Texans are being taken care of".
But his campaign spokesman, Mark Miner, said in an email later in the day that Perry planned to be there.
Perry, a favorite of the conservative Tea Party movement, blamed red tape for keeping bulldozers and other heavy equipment at the army's Fort Hood, 75 miles from Bastrop, from being putting to use. However, Fort Hood was battling its own 3,700-acre blaze, the Guardian reports.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the Obama administration had approved seven federal grants to Texas to help with the latest outbreak, and: "We will continue to work closely with the state and local emergency management officials."
Five heavy tanker planes, some from the federal government, and three aircraft capable of scooping up 1,500 gallons of water at a time from lakes also took part in the fight.
"We're getting incredible support from all over the country – federal and state agencies," said Mark Stanford, operations director for the Texas Forest Service.
The disaster is mostly due to the severe, year-long drought.
The fire in Bastrop county is worse than a blaze that destroyed 168 homes in the north of the state in April.