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Firefighters gain control of Texas wildfires

BASTROP, Texas -- Firefighting crews started to gain control Wednesday of a wind-stoked blaze that has raged unchecked across parched Central Texas for days, leaving hundreds of charred properties in its wake and causing thousands of people to flee.

As authorities commanded operations fighting the disaster, Gov. Rick Perry flew off to a Republican presidential debate in California.

At least two people have died in the wildfire, which destroyed nearly 800 homes and blackened about 45 square miles in and around the city of Bastrop, outside Austin, the state capital.

The Texas Forest Service said the blaze had consumed 785 homes, making it the most catastrophic of the fires that have erupted in a week across Texas. One of the most devastating wildfire outbreaks in state history has caused four deaths and pulled the state's firefighting ranks to the limit.

But Bastrop County Judge Ronnie McDonald also sounded an optimistic tone, saying firefighters had a "good night" and that no new structures were lost overnight in the battle to contain the 33,000-acre blaze about 25 miles east of Austin. Containment remained at 30 percent.

The forest service said it responded to a total of 19 new fires yesterday totaling 1,490 acres across the state, bringing the count over the past week to more than 170 fires consuming more than 130,000 acres.

Crews finally got a reprieve Tuesday from winds pushed in by Tropical Storm Lee that whipped the blaze into an inferno over the weekend.

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