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Texans Urged To Use Care With Labor Day Fires

COLLEGE STATION (AP) - Texas forestry officials urged caution during Labor Day outings to avoid starting wildfires like a disastrous 2011 blaze blamed on strong winds.

Records show 126 of the state's 254 counties had burn bans in effect Thursday, the Texas A&M Forest Service said.

"Labor Day weekend is the peak of summer fire activity, when everything is at its driest due to the summer heat," Spencer said. "People just need to be aware. Don't let a wildfire ruin the holiday weekend," according to Tom Spencer, an A&M Forest Service official.

A 2011 Labor Day weekend fire in Bastrop County, about 30 miles east of Austin, burned for more than a month and scorched at least 32,000 acres. Forest Service officials say nearly 1,700 homes were destroyed, and two people died.

A Forest Service investigation found that the blaze was started when wind gusts of more than 30 mph knocked down trees that crashed into overhead power lines, causing sparks that fell into dry grass below.

The report, conducted by several state and county agencies and Texas State University, includes a transcript of the conversation between 911 dispatchers and emergency responders when the fire broke out. It praised the quick response of firefighters, sheriff's deputies and others who helped get people out of the fire's path.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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