Homeless Man Charged with Starting Austin Fires

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Authorities in Austin, Texas, say strong winds and extremely dry conditions caused a homeless man's cooking campfire to spread across 100 acres, damaging or destroying at least 18 homes in the city. The man has been charged with reckless endangerment and is being held on a $50,000 bond.

Initially, authorities evacuated residents of 200 homes and enlisted two C-130s to douse the area with fire retardant. By late Sunday, many residents were allowed to return to their homes.

For weeks, firefighters have been battling wildfires from across the state. The Texas Forest Service reported that wildfires have burned more than 1,000 square miles of mostly rural areas last week.

On Sunday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry appealed for federal help.

"Texas is reaching its capacity to respond to these emergencies and is in need of federal assistance," Perry said in a statement released on Sunday.

On Friday, volunteer firefighter Greg Simmons, 51, died battling a major blaze near the town of Eastland, about 130 miles west of Dallas. Simmons, whose career as a firefighter spanned two decades, was struck by a vehicle as he fled a fire truck engulfed by flames in a pasture between Fort Worth and Abilene.

About 70 to 80 miles west of Fort Worth, around Possum Kingdom Reservoir, wildfires burned an estimated 32,000 acres and may have destroyed up to 50 homes, Forest Service spokeswoman Victoria Koenig reported.

Pastor Greg Hill of the Southwest Community Church said evacuees were "grateful to have a place to go."

"They're wondering about the state of their homes," Pastor Hill said. "The worst part is waiting. Information has been slow."


AP contributed to this report.

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