LUBBBOCK (Reuters) - Wild fires fed by high winds and severe drought swept through seven high-end homes on the outskirts of Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle on Monday, bringing to 12 the number of residences destroyed by fires in the area over Memorial Day weekend.
More than 2.7 million acres and more than 400 homes have burned across Texas amid severe drought and high winds since November, and two volunteer firefighters have died.
Governor Rick Perry last week appealed the federal government’s denial of increased federal assistance for the costs of battling the wildfires.
Battling the fires has cost the state more than $107 million, Perry said in a letter to President Barack Obama.
Some 1,200 acres had burned on Monday by late afternoon northwest of Amarillo after winds pushed flames from a car fire off a highway and toward neighborhoods, Texas Forest Service spokesman Tim Evans said.
The blaze followed a Sunday afternoon fire in the opposite corner of the city that destroyed five homes and consumed an estimated 200 acres, service spokeswoman April Phillips said.
High winds and dry conditions had fed flames there that originated from a single house fire, Phillips said.
“If anything else gets started, it’s going to move quickly,” Phillips said.
Winds were gusting up to 50 miles per hour and temperatures hovered near 100 degrees (F), National Weather Service meteorologist Ken Schneider said.
“I’d call that extremely critical fire conditions,” Schneider said.
The area could see some relief from fire danger by Wednesday, when changing conditions should bring higher humidity, he said.
Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Peter Bohan