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Top Morning Stories April 18, 2011

Helicopters dropped loads of water on Sunday's massive brush fire in Oak Hill.
Photo by Crystal Chavez for KUT News.
Helicopters dropped loads of water on Sunday's massive brush fire in Oak Hill.

Suspect Charged in Oak Hill Fire

A suspect has been charged with arson and arrested in connection with yesterday's Oak Hill brush fire in the Scenic Brook neighborhood.  The suspect's bond was set at $50,000.  Austin Fire Department Lt. Randy Elmore told KUT this morning the suspect is a homeless man who was cooking eggs at a camp site.  Fire officials say he has been cooperative. 

The blaze burned about 100 acres. Officials say 10 homes had major damage and another 6 had some damage.  The fire is 50 percent contained this morning.  AFD says there are still a lot of hot spots. 

Oak Hill Evacuations

164 homes remain evacuated. For a map of the evacuated area click here.  The city is also providing updates through recorded messages at 974-6199.  Mayor Lee Leffingwell said a fire on this scale was a first for the city.  KUT's Matt Largey reported on yesterday's fire; you can listen to his story here.

Gov. Perry Requests Federal Disaster Declaration

Wildfires have been burning across the state and over the weekend Governor Rick Perry sent a letter to President Obama requesting a Major Disaster Declaration.  The governor listed 252 counties threatened or impacted by wildfires in the request. 

If approved, the declaration would make Texas eligible for federal aid, including federal resources to fight wildfires.  More than 1,528,714 acres have been scorched and over 240 homes have been destroyed across the state since the wildfire season began.

Census Shows East Austin Demographic Changes

It's no secret East Austin has been changing dramatically in recent years.  Juan Castillo of the Austin American-Statesman has a story this morning looking at new detailed Census data for East Austin.  Here's a look at some of the highlights:

The number of African Americans residing in Central East Austin - once considered the epicenter of black and brown life in Central Texas - shrank by 27 percent during the past decade, while the number of whites living there increased by 40 percent, and whites surpassed blacks as the second-largest racial or ethnic group. African Americans or Hispanics still hold a majority or plurality in most East Austin census tracts. But white residents had become the majority in two of the tracts by 2010. The Hispanic population in Central East Austin also fell - by 9.3 percent - during the period, according to an analysis of 2010 census data for 20 tracts roughly bounded by Interstate 35, Lady Bird Lake, U.S. 290 East and U.S. 183.