High winds and drought conditions are fueling dozens of fires in Central and East Texas that have scorched thousands of acres, burned hundreds of homes and claimed lives.
A 20-year-old woman and her child died in their trailer home Sunday near Gladewater, Texas, unable to escape the inferno that one longtime Texas sheriff said was the fastest-moving fire he had ever seen. That fire has since been extinguished.
The largest wildfire currently burning in the state began Sunday afternoon in Bastrop County and has blackened more than 14,000 acres, caused over 5,000 people to evacuate and damaged or destroyed at least 300 homes, according to fire officials. The 16 miles wide and four miles long blaze, southeast of Austin, continues to rage unchecked.
"It's a monster, and it's zero percent contained," said Texas Forest Service spokeswoman Jan Amen.
In response to the fires Texas Gov. Rick Perry cancelled his planned appearance at a Labor Day forum in Columbia, S.C., today as well as events in California tomorrow to return to Texas, a spokeswoman for Perry told ABC News.
"Our state has got wildfires that are running quite wild at zero containment right now and the winds are supposed to pick up again," Perry said.
Since Sunday, 63 fires have started in the state and 251 of Texas' 254 counties were under outdoor burn bans. Texas is experiencing its worst drought since the 1950s.
Amen said the fire in Bastrop is unsafe to fight from the ground and that they are using National Guard helicopters and four heavy tanker planes to wage an aerial assault on the flames.
Many residents were forced to flee quickly with the fire right on their doorstep.
"While we were grabbing our things you could feel the heat of the fire and there was smoke in our house already," said one woman who was forced to evacuate. "We just grabbed our dog and packed as much stuff in our car as we could."
Other residents left with only the clothes on their back and now fear having to start anew.
"I'm petrified because the fire was in my yard," said another woman. "I'm sure that my house is gone."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.