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High Fire Threat In Texas & Midday Roundup

By KERA News & Wire Services

Dallas, TX – Dangerous Texas wildfires have moved east into forest land with more than 3,000 acres burned in Tyler and Hardin counties. Texas Forest Service spokesman Marq Webb said fires are starting to "crown," meaning fire builds up and gets into the tops of trees.

Webb told The Associated Press that helicopters and ground resources are being used, with more personnel and equipment being dispatched Monday. He says it's so dry statewide and the "fire factor is just running off the charts."

The agency says at least 700,000 acres have burned across Texas in the past week. More than 50 homes have been destroyed near Possum Kingdom Lake, about 75 miles west of Fort Worth.

A volunteer firefighter from Eastland died Friday after being hit by a vehicle.

A fire official says a tour of a wildfire-scorched area of the Texas capital has found that 10 homes were destroyed and 10 others were significantly damaged.

Austin Fire Department spokesman Palmer Buck said that crews would likely find more homes that were damaged by the fast-moving weekend blaze. The wildfire started Saturday and burned an estimated 100 acres in southwest Austin and forced the evacuation of about 200 homes. Some areas are still smoldering.

Authorities on Monday charged a 60-year-old homeless man with arson for accidentally starting the Austin fire. Investigators say the man told them he left a campfire unattended while he went for beer. Most of drought-stricken Texas is under a burn ban.

Gov. Rick Perry has appealed to President Barack Obama to declare the state a major disaster area as wildfires strike or threaten all but two of the state's 254 counties.

A statement issued Sunday by Perry requested the aid in a letter dispatched Saturday afternoon. Perry's office says more than 7,800 fires across the states have charred more than 1.5 million acres - about 2,400 square miles - while burning 244 homes and threatening more than 8,500 others.

A "major disaster declaration" would make the state eligible for help in responding to and recovering from the emergency.

Senate committee would expand summer lunches

The Senate Education Committee has recommended expanding a summer lunch program for poor students.

Under current law, schools must provide lunches over the summer if 60 percent of students are eligible. The bill approved Monday would expand the program to schools where 50 percent of the students meet requirements.

The proposed change would make Texas consistent with federal regulations. The federal government finances the program, so it will have no impact on the Texas budget.

Schools can provide the lunches either on campus, or at alternative locations.

The bill by Brownsville Sen. Eddie Lucio also allows schools to request exemptions from the program.

Dallas: airbag deploys, toddler on mom's lap dies

An unrestrained toddler has died after a Dallas wreck in which she was smashed by an airbag that deployed as she sat on her mother's lap in the pickup.

Dallas police say the man driving the truck Sunday night abandoned the vehicle after it hit a light pole. He later surrendered and was jailed Monday facing charges of manslaughter and failure to stop and render aid.

Police say the mother was wearing a seat belt, in the front passenger seat, and holding the girl. Police say the weight difference between the mother and the child as the airbag deployed caused blunt force trauma to the youngster.

The name of the 18-month-old victim was not immediately released.

Further details on the mother were not immediately released.

Committee approves gun privileges for politicians

Statewide officials and lawmakers would be allowed to carry concealed handguns into sporting events, bars, churches and hospitals under a proposed law.

The Senate Criminal Justice Committee approved the bill Today.

Holders of concealed handgun permits are currently not allowed to carry their weapons into places that serve alcohol, sporting events, hospitals or churches. Judges and prosecutors are presently exempt from the limitation. This bill would expand that.

Seven state senators drafted the bipartisan bill, with Houston Sen. Dan Patrick as the lead author. It will now go to the full Senate for a vote.

Sources: Sanchez likely to run for Texas Sen. seat

Democratic sources say former Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez is expected to run for U.S. Senate in Texas, giving Democrats a high-profile recruit to fill the seat being vacated by GOP Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity Monday because they were not authorized to discuss private conversations with Sanchez.

Sanchez is a retired Army lieutenant general and commander of coalition forces in Iraq when revelations about prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib became public. He gave up his command in June 2004 and has since maintained that he never authorized torture at the prison. He retired from the military in 2006.

Sanchez would become the first prominent Democrat to seek Hutchison's seat. Sanchez had no immediate comment when reached by the AP.