Abbott declared a catastrophe on Friday evening during a news conference at the Eastland fire station to mobilize state resources in response to the flames ravaging the 11 counties.
According to KRBC-TV in Abilene, the declaration enables the 11 counties of Brooks, Brown, Coleman, Comanche, Eastland, Grayson, Mason, Potter, Randall, Reynolds, and Williamson to request federal assistance in containing the fire and preventing fatalities.
According to the latest information from the Texas A&M Forest Service, the Eastland Complex fires in central West Texas have consumed 45,383 acres and are 15% controlled.
“We know that at least 50 houses have been destroyed,” Abbott added. “Containment is a primary objective.”
Abbott emphasized the critical nature of the situation, lauded state and local officials, and paid tribute to Eastland County sheriff’s officer Barbara Fenley, who died Thursday while attempting to assist an elderly resident fleeing the flames.
In her honor, Abbott handed a Texas flag to a family member, Anna Oliverra.
“She was committed to her profession,” Olivera stated during a news conference. “She took pride in her work. She was simply a decent woman.”
First Baptist Church and River Live Church in Eastland and the Myrtle Wilkes Community Center and Gorman Community Center in Cisco have established shelters.
Several organizations, including the Red Cross, have been established to aid individuals in need at Eastland’s Siebert Elementary School.
“We are not yet out of this weather pattern. The last thing we need is another fire diverting firefighters away from existing resources, so please encourage the community to remain careful,” Texas Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd said during the press conference.