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BASTROP (AP) – Firefighters have contained about 70 percent of a Central Texas wildfire, although their progress was threatened Sunday by higher winds and lower humidity, officials said.
Some 275 firefighters were assisted by at least seven aircraft dumping water and fire retardant on the Hidden Pines Fire in Bastrop County, about 40 miles southeast of Austin.
“We’ve got a pretty good air force out there to support the operations going on,” said Steve Pollock, chief regional fire coordinator for the Texas A&M Forest Service.
Officials warned a weather front bringing winds and less humidity later Sunday was a concern.
“We’re prepared for that,” Pollock said. “We’re confident we’ve got resources in place and can hold the line.”
No injuries have been reported, but some 7 square miles have burned and 50 homes and seven businesses have been lost in the blaze that broke out five days ago. The most recent containment estimate was a 10 percentage point improvement from Saturday.
“I would say we’re cautiously optimistic that through today we can continue to hold the line on the fire,” Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape said at a briefing.
More people were being allowed to return to their property Sunday, particularly at the northern end of the fire area, Bastrop County Sheriff Terry Pickering said.
He also reminded residents that his officers have been writing citations against people who have refused to comply with a burn ban order, despite the high fire danger and “a major wildfire going on.”
“I just want to re-emphasize that,” he said. One woman was arrested and jailed Sunday after she refused to sign her citation, he said.
About 400 homes have been evacuated since Tuesday when, according to a preliminary investigation, a farmer mistakenly started the fire as he dragged a shredder through tall grass, causing an overheated bearing to ignite grass clippings.
More than 200 utility workers hoping to restore power also were working Sunday to mark and clear fire-damaged trees that threatened to fall on electric lines.
The fire has torched much of the same area that was devastated in 2011 by a far more extensive wildfire that was fanned by 50 mph winds, wiping out 1,600 homes and killing two people.
Pape called on residents to “trust in the Lord, be strong, be patient and we’ll get through this.”
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