Fatal Texas Wildfire Forces Evacuations and Destroys 50 Homes

At least one person was killed, 50 homes were destroyed and nearly 500 others evacuated in central Texas after a wildfire burned more than 45,000 acres on Thursday and Friday, according to the authorities.

The wildfire, a set of several blazes collectively called the Eastland Complex fire, began on Thursday evening.

A deputy with the Eastland County Sheriff’s Office died in the blaze while helping others, local authorities said. The deputy’s name was not released.

On Friday evening, Gov. Greg Abbott signed a disaster declaration that would allow the state to better help 11 counties affected by the fire. He said more counties could be added.

Mr. Abbott said the fire remains dangerous because of the “ever-shifting winds” and dry ground.

“Part of what we’re fighting is the fire,” he said. “Part of what we’re fighting is the weather and the winds.”

On Friday afternoon, about 10 percent of the fire was contained, the Texas A&M Forest Service said on Twitter.

“This is definitely one to pay attention to,” Madison Gordon, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said, adding that this was the first wildfire of this magnitude to hit Texas this year.

Ms. Gordon said that forecasters had anticipated the blaze’s size and had sent several warnings. On Thursday, the National Weather Service issued wind advisories for central and northern regions of the state.

The Texas A&M Forest Service said it responded to 10 wildfires overall across the state. Those fires burned about 52,700 acres, the service said, adding that strong winds and dry grasses were contributing factors.

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The Eastland Complex fire consists of four fires. The largest of them, the Kidd fire, was responsible for burning 30,000 acres alone.

The four fires scorched parts of Comanche and Eastland Counties, according to InciWeb, which tracks fires.

Communities affected included Gorman, where roughly 475 homes were evacuated; Carbon, where a highway was closed; and Lake Leon. Gorman is about 100 miles west of Fort Worth. Shelters for evacuees were opened at sites that included local churches and a school.

Residents were sharing footage of the fire across social media, including scenes of damaged homes. Smoke from the blaze was reaching other parts of the state, including Houston, some 300 miles away, the National Weather Service said.

The Houston Health Department told residents, especially those with respiratory issues, to stay indoors on Friday.

Smoke from the fire can lead to health problems, including burning eyes and chronic heart and lung disease, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Vimal Patel contributed reporting.

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