AUSTIN - Firefighters were gaining ground on Wednesday for the first time in their days-long battle against a large and deadly wildfire southeast of Austin, Texas, officials said.

The 33,000-acre Bastrop County Complex fire, which has forced the evacuation of about 5,000 people in the rural community, was about 30 percent contained as of Wednesday morning, said April Saginor, public information officer for the Texas Forest Service.

The Bastrop fire, one of nearly 200 fires that have broken out across Texas in the past week, has killed two people and claimed 575 homes, the most houses ever destroyed by a single fire in Texas history.

Firefighters who have fought the blaze since Sunday were helped overnight by decreased winds and cooler temperatures, conditions expected to continue on Wednesday, officials said.

The U.S. Forest Service has sent a team to the area to help coordinate the efforts, which include nearly 400 firefighters.

So far, four people have died in wildfires in the state since Labor Day weekend, including a mother and infant daughter who were killed in northeast Texas on Sunday.

Wildfires sweeping across drought-stricken state have destroyed more than 1,000 homes in the last several days.

The Bastrop fire, the largest current blaze, stretches 24 miles long and 20 miles wide at its widest point.

More than 3.6 million acres in Texas have been scorched by wildfires since November, fed by a drought that has caused more than $5 billion in damage to the state's agricultural industry and that shows no sign of easing.

(Editing by Jerry Norton and Eric Beech)

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