Forecasters say this is the worst drought to hit the state in 45 years. Today, the dangerously dry weather is increasing potential for wildfires as volunteer fire departments battle fatigue to save their communities from the flames.
The Texas Forest Service says it is currently working on ten major fires that cover 530,000 acres. Six of those wildfires broke out yesterday. Firefighters from across the country are helping to extinguish the blazes, according to the New York Times.
Firefighters and support workers on loan from 43 states, the Virgin Islands and a variety of federal agencies worked yesterday to beat back the flames on four major fires that still cover more than half a million acres.
As Texas seeks to quash the blazes, it is using almost all of the U.S. air tankers that are currently available to help fight wildfires, according to [Texas Forest Service spokesman Marq] Webb. That includes three heavy air tankers and four military C-130s. Then, another two air tankers are on standby in New Mexico, and could be called in for an emergency response -- if they are not already attending to another fire, he said.
Meanwhile, these fires are taking a large toll on volunteer fire departments. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that some volunteers are working 16- to 18-hour days.
Unlike full-time firefighters, volunteers often deal with additional stress because the fires they're fighting threaten their own homes and families. It's dangerous work. In 2009, 47 of the 90 U.S. firefighters killed in the line of duty were volunteers, according to the most recent data from the National Fire Data Center.
Here's the latest wildfire report from the Texas Forest Service:
Critical fire weather today over critically dry fuels will provide increased potential for significant fires.
- We’re currently working on 10 major fires that cover more than 530,000 acres.
- 211 of the 254 Texas counties are reporting burn bans (view map).
New large fires from Monday:
DETON COLE, Val Verde County. 4,300 acres, 15 percent contained. The fire is in rugged terrain40 miles southwest of Ozona, burning in tall grass and brush. Three residences are threatened. Texas Forest Service taskforces worked the fire last night and additional aviation resources have been requested to respond today.
SPADE RANCH, Terry County. 4,000 acres, 75 percent contained. The fire is burning 43 miles southwest of Lubbock in tall grass. No structures are threatened.
FULLER, Scurry County. 2,000 acres, 75 percent contained. The fire is15 miles northwest of Snyder. Three TFS taskforces and a Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System (TIFMAS) strike responded.
MATHIS, Cottle County. 300 acres, 50 percent contained. One home was saved on this fire just on the north side of Paducah.
T-BAR RANCH, Lynn County. 1,500 acres, 90 percent contained. The fire is burning in grass 20 miles south of Lubbock. There are no structures threatened.
TAYLOR, Concho County. 500 acres, 75 percent contained.Six miles east of Eden. One building was temporarily evacuated as the south flank of the fire moved rapidly through tall grass and brush.
Uncontained fires from previous days:
PK COMPLEX, Stephens and Palo Pinto Counties. 126,734 acres, 80 percent contained. The acreage decrease is due to more accurate GPS mapping. 167 homes and two churches have been destroyed on this complex of four fires burning near Possum Kingdom Lake, Caddo, Strawn and Bunger, which have all had evacuations. Lower winds and higher humidity have helped firefighters gain the upper hand, although scattered hot spots and smoldering continue on the interior. TFS task forces, TIFMAS resources, three helitankers and three Type III helicopters are assisting on the fire. The Type I Incident Management Team (Wilder) is expected to be released from the fire later this week.
ROCKHOUSE, Presidio and Jeff Davis Counties. 224,956 acres, 75 percent contained. Additional growth is expected to the north and east as strong winds and low relative humidity are expected across the area. Twenty-three homes and two commercial structures were destroyed in the Fort Davis area in the initial burning period. The Buffalo Trail Boy Scout Ranch remains threatened. Approximately 300 firefighters continue to work the fire burning in heavy brush and pinyon-juniper in Madera Canyon. Difficult terrain is causing control problems on the west side of the fire. Crews continue to conduct burnout operations. A base camp for hundreds of firefighters has been set up at the Fort Davis State Park.
WILDCAT, Coke County. 159,308 acres, 80 percent contained. This fire is burning in tall grass north of San Angelo. More than 400 homes have been saved; one was destroyed. The communities of Grape Creek, Quail Valley, Bronte, Robert Lee, Tennyson and Orient were threatened, but all evacuation orders have been lifted.
PIPELINE, Tyler County. 7,100 acres, 90 percent contained. Forty homes were threatened by this fire which is burning in pine plantation 10 miles Northeast of Kountze. Two Type 2 hand crews continue to mop up interior smokes.
West Texas: A strong low pressure system will move east today sending the dryline farther east to near the I-35 corridor by afternoon. Strong winds on the back side of this system will result in extremely critical fire weather conditions across all of the West Branch and southern portions of the Northwest Branch.
East Texas: Warm and humid conditions will persist today across East Texas. Scattered showers and thunderstorms are expected. Some of these storms will be severe with large hail and damaging winds. Isolated tornadoes will also be possible with the strongest storms.
- Obey outdoor burning bans. Don’t burn trash or debris when conditions are dry or windy. Unsafe burning of leaves, brush, household trash and other debris is the No. 1 cause of wildfires in Texas.
- Keep lawn mowers and agricultural equipment in proper working condition and avoid rocks and other materials which might cause a spark.
- To report suspicious activities, call the Arson Hotline at (888) 501-3850. If possible, safely obtain an accurate description of the person and/or vehicle (including the license number) before calling the hotline.
- Humans cause more than 90 percent of all wildfires. Do not weld or cut without a spotter, a water source and a shovel.