MIAMI, Texas – The charred bodies of four oilfield workers were found a short distance from their car. A cow that had tried to push through a barbed wire fence was discovered burned alive. And 10,000 other cattle and horses were feared dead across the smoking landscape.
The grisly toll from one of the state's worst outbreaks of wildfires became ever clearer Tuesday as the blazes continued to burn across the dry Texas Panhandle.
At least 11 people have died and 1,900 others have been forced to evacuate since the weekend. The fires, propelled by winds as high as 55 mph, have raced across more than 1,000 square miles.
Firefighters reported making progress Tuesday, but optimism was guarded, with winds forecast to gust to 30 mph Wednesday.
Higher humidity, though, was expected to mean the fire danger would "not be as explosive as it was on Sunday," said John Cockrell of the National Weather Service in Amarillo.
More than 350 firefighters battled the blazes, with 26 aircraft dropping fire retardant and 55 bulldozer crews clearing brush and digging trenches.
"We share in the grief of those who have lost family members and loved ones, and we offer our prayers," Gov. Rick Perry said. "Throughout this wildfire season, communities in our state have shown strength and resolve that are uniquely Texan."
The four oilfield workers apparently died Sunday, said Newell Rankin, the range foreman of the Roberts County ranch where the bodies were found. Rankin said it appeared the men drove off a gravel road and into a ravine, where they abandoned the car and tried to flee.
Their bodies were found within 50 yards of the car.
"In a last act of desperation you just run for your life, literally," Rankin said. "It's a shocking thing, the loss of life."
Carla Everett, a spokeswoman for the Texas Animal Health Commission, said about 10,000 cattle and horses were believed killed.
"I think it's going to be absolutely devastating once we get out there and look," said Gene Hall, the Texas Farm Bureau spokesman.
Rankin said most of his 1,300-acre ranch was burned, and he was trying to account for his 750 head of cattle. He found 12 dead and had to shoot another. About 500 were back in their pens, and firefighters managed to save his home, Rankin said.