A wildfire burning northeast of Colorado Springs has destroyed at least 360 homes, making it the most destructive in state history, according to an Associated Press report.

The El Paso County sheriff said today that deputies still haven't been able to verify the condition of 79 homes as the wildfire continues to burn. So it's possible the figure could rise even higher. The fire is burning near where the Waldo Canyon fire burned 347 homes last year and killed two people. It was previously the most destructive in Colorado history. Fueled by hot temperatures, changing gusts, and thick, bone-dry forests, the Black Forest Fire earlier prompted evacuation orders and pre-evacuation notices to more than 9,000 people and to about 3,500 homes and businesses.

Louisiana State Police say a reported explosion has started a fire at a chemical plant. According to the AP, Capt. Doug Cain says the fire broke out this morning at The Williams Companies Incorporated plant in the town of Geismar, about 20 miles southeast of Baton Rouge. The plant makes highly flammable gases that are basic building blocks in the petrochemical industry. Residents in the surrounding area have been asked by state police to stay indoors and close all windows and doors. Cain says he doesn't know how many people were hurt, but saw ambulances taking a couple of people from the plant. The company's website says the plant puts out about 1.3 billion pounds of ethylene and 90 million pounds of polymer grade propylene a year.

And Christmas may be more than six months away, but it's already on the minds of Gov. Rick Perry and some lawmakers in the state Legislature. According to the AP, the governor today will sign into law a bipartisan bill removing any legal risks of saying "Merry Christmas" in Texas public schools. Traditional holiday symbols, such as a menorah or nativity scene, also are protected, so long as more than one religion and a secular symbol are also reflected. The measure's sponsor, a Houston Republican, says it will provide schools cover from "ridiculous" lawsuits. His bill sailed through both chambers to reach Perry's desk. When it passed the House last month, several Santa Claus impersonators rang sleigh bells in the public gallery.





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