After a week of wildfires tormenting the Possum Kingdom Lake area, conditions were finally improving Tuesday, allowing property owners and insurance adjusters into The Cliffs, the hardest hit subdivision.
"It's looking a lot better," said Palo County Sheriff Ira Mercer. "We actually released some firefighters to go fight the Bastrop fire."
Mercer said all roadblocks have been lifted on public roads and local authorities have begun dealing with other issues they had set aside for the last week.
The Texas Forest Service said the Possum Kingdom fire, known as the 101 Ranch Fire, was 85 percent contained this morning and firefighting conditions had changed for the better during the last 24 hours as the winds have died down.
The fire destroyed 39 homes last week.
"If all goes well – and we're not anticipating any flare-ups – we plan to hand it back over to local firefighters tonight," said Texas Forest Service spokeswoman April Phillips, who had already relocated to monitor Central Texas wildfires.
But serious problems persist in Central Texas where Gov. Rick Perry continued to stay off the presidential campaign trail today, flying over the heavily damaged Steiner Ranch community west of Austin, and meeting with emergency management and local officials who have been battling fires in the area.
"Our primary focus is on safety and protecting lives, and Texans need to heed all warnings, especially evacuation warnings from local officials," Texas Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd said. "The Texas Division of Emergency Management is actively supporting local firefighting efforts across the state, and we will continue to provide all necessary assistance."
On Monday, the Texas Forest Service responded to 22 new fires across the state that covered more than 7,500 acres. This came a day after the 30,000-acre Bastrop County Complex fire destroyed nearly 600 homes southeast of Austin.
In the past week, the Texas Forest Service has responded to 181 fires covering 118,413 acres, and initial estimates show more than 700 homes have been destroyed statewide.
Even as firefighters continue to battle volatile conditions around the Austin area, Phillips said the lack of wind will give firefighters a chance to make headway.
"The winds are really gentle, the sky is clear," Phillips said. "It's really not going to be wind-driven but it will still be fuel-driven because there is still all of that fuel on the ground."