Wildfire Potential Increases In Southwest Texas
As of Monday, wildfire potential continued to increase for large, difficult-to-control wildfires in Southwest Texas, specifically for areas near Del Rio, San Angelo, San Antonio and Laredo.
State, local and federal first responders have been increasingly busy with recent response efforts. Over the past seven days, firefighters responded to 178 wildfires that burned 108,493 acres across the state. A Southern Plains Wildfire Outbreak occurred on March 17 across western parts of Central Texas. On March 17, strong winds and critically dry grasses contributed to extreme fire behavior and rapid rates of spread across the landscape. State, local, federal and military resources responded to 20 wildfires that burned 67,533 acres that day.
“Group torching, the vertical transition of fire from the ground to the canopy of trees in oak and juniper timber was observed on Thursday,” said Luke Kanclerz, Texas A&M Forest Service fire analyst. “Embers and flammable material were spotting up to 150 yards away from the active wildfire.”
Several wildfires, including the Eastland Complex fire in Eastland and Brown counties, are still actively burning across the state. The more than 54,000-acre wildfire prompted evacuations and road closures and damaged 147 structures. Eastland County Sheriff’s Deputy Sergeant Barbara Fenley died in the line of duty while assisting with evacuations.
“The extreme conditions present across the state last week greatly impacted several communities and the Texans who live there,” said Wes Moorehead, Texas A&M Forest Service fire chief. “These communities endured significant loss, and we grieve with them.”
The Geographic Area Coordination Centers’ Southern Area Gray Type 3 Incident Management Team assumed command of the fires over the weekend, working alongside Texas A&M Forest Service. However, with increasing complexity, the Southern Area Blue Type 1 Incident Management Team has been mobilized to manage the fires and will be in state mid-week to assist.
Increased wildfire activity was observed on March 20 along and west of I-35, where critically dry grass across the landscape was exposed to elevated-to-critical fire weather. This also included higher wind speeds and low humidity.
The Texas A&M Forest Service is monitoring the current situation closely and has prepositioned personnel and equipment across the state for a quick and effective response to any requests for assistance.
Fully staffed task forces and additional suppression equipment are staged in Alice, Amarillo, Beeville, Brownwood, Burkburnett, Childress, Edinburg, Fort Stockton, Fredericksburg, Lubbock, McGregor, Merkel, Mineral Wells, Pleasanton, San Angelo, Smithville and Victoria. Additionally, fire-line supervisors, command staff and incident commanders with advanced qualifications are strategically placed across the state to respond. Resources from 14 states have been mobilized to Texas to support wildfire response efforts.
Aircraft were heavily utilized over the past week to support suppression efforts on the ground, aiding in the protection of structures and other valuable resources.
Thirty-four aviation resources are currently staged in state, including three large air tankers, 15 single engine air tankers, four air attack platforms, two aerial supervision modules, three Type 1 helicopters, two Type 3 helicopters, four Blackhawks, one Chinook and one multi-mission aircraft.
Eleven strike teams are mobilized via Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System. Texas A&M Forest Service has requested the mobilization of three additional strike teams for wildfire incident support.
Responders are asking Texans to stay wildfire aware. If a wildfire is spotted, immediately contact local authorities. A quick response can help save lives and property.
For current conditions and wildfire outlook, visit the Texas Fire Potential Outlook.
Texas A&M Forest Service does not own any aviation resources but instead uses federal aviation contracts through the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management for all firefighting aircraft.
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