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Texas wildfires leave survivors with little but gratitude to be alive

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All that is left for many are a few possessions, some pets, and family members. Two people have been reported killed by the Bastrop area fire. Survivors who outraced the flames ponder their future.

Saving Chunk and Grommit

Raquel Herrera sits, holding her husband Jeffrey Auckland's hand across a cafeteria table at the Bastrop Middle School. The school has been converted into a makeshift shelter to help thousands of suddenly homeless residents like her. Thankfully, a neighbor phoned Sunday afternoon to warn Ms. Herrera that a fast-moving wall of flame was just on the other side of the ridge from her subdivision – and headed straight for it, she says.

“I went outside after she called and looked up and the sky was still clear, but I noticed that two of my neighbors were packing up their cars and throwing stuff into it,” she says, her eyes moist. “I realized right away that I had better go too.”

Grabbing her 4-year-old son, Herrera put him in the car then phoned her husband at work as she grabbed clothes, important documents, and family pets – four dogs, two cats. After picking up her husband, they decided to race back and pick up their two big snakes as well, a python and a boa constrictor.

“I couldn't leave Chunk and Grommit there,” Mr. Auckland says. But on the return trip they also met a sheriff's deputy who told them they had to leave immediately, because the fire was fast approaching. They never saw the flames but did as ordered.

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