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More residents to return to their neighborhoods in fire-stricken Texas

By the CNN Wire Staff
Hillary Polly looks through the rubble of her family's burned house on Wednesday near Bastrop, Texas.
Hillary Polly looks through the rubble of her family's burned house on Wednesday near Bastrop, Texas.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Four subdivisions will be reopened Monday in Bastrop County
  • More than 1,500 homes have burned
  • Six people are unaccounted for
  • It is the worst dry spell for the state since 1895

(CNN) -- Authorities expect to allow residents to begin re-entering some of their communities in fire-ravaged Bastrop County, Texas, this week as firefighters made some headway against the blaze at 50% containment.

Four subdivisions will be reopened to evacuated residents Monday, with additional openings set for Tuesday and Thursday, according to a press release from the county.

Despite the slight gains made by firefighters in Bastrop, however, homes continue to burn in a dry spell unseen since 1895. At least 1,554 homes have been torched so far in the nearly 180 wildfires that broke out over 170,686 acres last week, according to Victoria Koenig, a spokeswoman for the Texas Forest Service.

Six people were unaccounted for Sunday in Bastrop County near Austin where the most damaging blaze was burning. Authorities are asking those who have not registered at evacuation centers to do so, and are also asking friends or family of those unaccounted for to check in if they know their whereabouts.

Wildfire stops at statue
RELATED TOPICS
  • Wildfires
  • Texas
  • Bastrop County

In the wake of the fire, two people were found dead last week during searches of the charred subdivisions, the Texas Forest Service said. One person was identified Saturday as Vickie Keenan, 58, said Bastrop County Sheriff Terry Pickering.

The Bastrop County Complex fire now includes the 719-acre Union Chapel wildfire, but on Saturday morning, all Union Chapel residents were allowed to return to their homes, officials said. The Union Chapel fire was 90% contained Saturday, officials said.

Gina Thurman was among residents allowed to return to their homes last week. Her subdivision was mostly unscathed by the fire, but her home of 10 years as well as her next door neighbor's house were destroyed.

"I was digging around this morning and I stopped because it was still smoldering," she said Saturday. "Basically, there is nothing to salvage, nothing to salvage."

Few recognizable items existed amid the ash and rubble.

"A few of the things I was going through on my list I was like, 'Dang it, you know, I'm going to miss that one,'" Thurman said. "But I have the memory. Close the eyes and you can see it, you know?"

Thurman plans to rebuild, noting "it's just property, it can be replaced."

Since January 1, state and local firefighters and crews from across the country have battled 18,887 wildfires over more than 3.5 million acres in Texas, according to state officials.

CNN's Chris Welch contributed to this report.

 
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