Fri April 8, 2011
Massive Wildfire in West Texas Burns 50,000 Acres
Officials are sending more resources to help battle a massive wildfire in West Texas that's already burned about 50,000 acres.
The Texas Forest Service says the fire, just north of the town of Aspermont (map), has not been contained. More than 58,000 gallons of fire retardant were dropped by tanker planes yesterday, and more equipment is being moved into place today.
No one has been killed or injured in the fire, and no structures have been burned.
Fire danger remains extremely high in most of the state. It's expected to stay that way, as hot, dry conditions persist into the weekend. KUT's Jennifer Stayton interviewed a fire-spotter. You can hear Philip Connors description of what it's like to see that first puff of smoke from high in in the Gila National Forest.
The Texas Tribune reports the Texas Forest Service has responded to 618 fires so far this year, that have burned 279,000 acres. Last year, the agency responded to only 167 fires that burned 7,300 acres during the same period. And the Tribune reports more fires are likely on the way:
"John Nielsen-Gammon, a professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M who also serves as the state climatologist, said that the federal Climate Prediction Center expects Texas to remain dry for at least another month or two. From October through March, he said, the state received less rainfall than in any other winter since 1966-67."
The state Forest Service is also under Sunset review right now, and the Legislature could trim more than $30 million from it's budget in the next biennium.