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Firefighters hold ground in Texas

A fresh team of firefighters arrived from the Sequoia National Forest in California to help. A fresh team of firefighters arrived from the Sequoia National Forest in California to help. (Lm Otero/Associated Press)
Associated Press / September 10, 2011

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BASTROP, Texas - Firefighters are tamping down hotspots and holding back flames from a wildfire that has burned for days across Central Texas, incinerating nearly 1,400 homes and tens of thousands of acres of drought-parched land, officials said yesterday.

The fire in and around Bastrop, about 25 miles east of Austin, officially remained 30 percent contained, but crews had surrounded and closed in on the flames, and no new homes were reported destroyed.

“It seems to be holding well today,’’ public information officer Annette Grijalva-Disert said.

Authorities had planned yesterday to deploy a converted DC-10 jetliner capable of dropping 12,000 gallons of fire retardant on the blaze, but Texas Forest Service spokeswoman Holly Huffman said the massive plane was not immediately needed in Bastrop and was instead sent to fires burning in a mostly rural area north of Houston.

Fire retardant is dropped to shorten and shrink flames, allowing firefighters to make headway, but it does not extinguish the fire. “What puts fires out, what’s most effective, are the men and women on the ground,’’ said Tom Harbour, the US Forest Service’s national fire director.

Firefighters from across the country continued to pour into Bastrop, and Texas Forest Service incident manager Bob Koenig said 844 were on the fire line there yesterday.

Huffman agreed firefighting crews have made significant strides in Bastrop County and said the jet “can be diverted at any point if a new fire pops up,’’ but it was first sent to blazes in Grimes, Montgomery and Waller counties that have blackened about 15,000 acres 40 miles northwest of Houston.

Texas is in the midst of its worst-ever wildfire outbreak.

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