Wildfires continued to scorch parts of Texas on Monday while a storm system moving through could bring much-needed rain but also strong winds, forecasters said.
The Eastland Complex, which comprises several fires in one place, had burned nearly 85 square miles in an area about 120 miles west of Dallas and was 30% contained as of Monday morning.
A National Weather Service meteorologist, Monique Sellers, told the Dallas Morning News about an inch of rain was predicted for Monday in Eastland county, which could offer firefighters a much-needed reprieve from the extreme conditions fueling the flames. But the strong winds are not expected to cease in many areas across the region, complicating containment efforts.
“The rain will relieve how dry it is in those grassy areas prone to fires,” she said. “Unfortunately, Monday is the only day we’re seeing any rain for the foreseeable future, and the windy days will continue.”
Red flag warnings have been issued by the agency into Monday evening noting the critically dry fuels and gusty winds.
Another fire prompted evacuations of several small towns in Hood county, about 75 miles south-west of Dallas. That blaze, known as the Big L fire, had burned about nine square miles and was 5% contained.
The Texas governor, Greg Abbott, said on Friday that 50 houses had been destroyed. In a tweet on Sunday, Abbott cast the conflagration as one of the worst the state has ever seen. “We are so grateful for the sacrifice and service of firefighters who have come from across the entire state to extinguish the largest wildfire in Texas history,” he said.
Two first responders have died from the fires, a sheriff’s deputy in Texas and a firefighter in Oklahoma. The name of the firefighter has not yet been released, but officials said they were battling a blaze that has since been contained.
In Texas, Deputy Sgt Barbara Fenley was going door-to-door to assist evacuations as the fire moved in on Carbon, and was killed as she tried to check on an elderly person, the Eastland County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement adding, “Sgt Fenley gave her life in the service of others and loved her community.”