Texas Governor Rick Perry, currently the Republican front runner, dropped campaigning in South Carolina where he was attempting to woo Tea Party stalwarts and hurried back to Texas on Monday afternoon to address the raging wildfires in Bastrop County.
In a season that has fused politicians with natural disasters, he drove straight to the stricken area and assumed symbolic command while touring shelters and commiserating with the victims.
Perry canceled Tuesday events scheduled in California. He still plans to participate in the Republican candidates debate at the Ronald Reagan presidential library on Wednesday .
Perry shrugged off suggestions that the fire would prevent him from prepping for the debate with the remark "I'm not paying any attention to politics right now."
The savage drought and prolonged heatwave, combined with fierce winds, created the worst possible conditions for the fire's containment, sometimes leaving little option but to evacuate homes in its path.
State officials reported that at least 64 wildfires started on Sunday and Monday. By Tuesday, winds had abated, easing the odds for the firefighters. Some of the fires spread to Magnolia County closer to Houston.
At least 5,000 people were evacuated in Bastrop County about 25 miles east of Austin, the state capital. Some were accommodated in emergency shelters set up in schools, libraries and churches.