Wildfire Risk Assessment Predicts Dangerous Wildfire Conditions to Continue
Dangerous wildfire conditions that have plagued Texas for nearly a year are expected to continue through the fall and possibly into the winter, according to a recent wildfire risk assessment report.
Texas remains mired in one of the worst droughts in state history and there appears to be little relief in sight, according to the Southern Area Fire Risk Assessment, which is calling for below average moisture and above average temperatures through the end of the year.
Compounding the problem, the relentless drought has left in its wake an overabundance of dead and drying vegetation including high-risk fuels like pines and junipers that burn intensely.
“With much of the state so critically dry, a wildfire could spread quickly — especially with the fall winds that will pick up as fronts move through the state,” Predictive Services Department Head Tom Spencer said.
“These factors were all in place over Labor Day weekend. They can really create a dangerous situation where the wildfire is in control.”
It was Labor Day weekend that the devastating Bastrop Fire ignited, ultimately charring more than 34,000 acres and destroying more than 1,500 homes as the blaze roared through vast fields of pine trees.
Spencer said this fall could be the most active in recent history. Traditionally, wildfire occurrence is low during this time of year, with the fires that do ignite limited to East Texas. But this fall the scope of the danger zone has expanded to include most of Texas and even some surrounding states.
Adding to the complexity is the fact that wildfires are occurring within close proximity to highly-populated, metropolitan areas, Spencer said. This could be made even worse by the gusty fall winds which can trigger multiple fires occurring over large areas of the state.
Though parts of the state may see small amounts of rain over the next few months, it likely won’t be the long, sustained, soaking rains that are needed to break the drought.
Texas Forest Service Fire Chief Mark Stanford urged residents across the state to be aware of the dangerous conditions, adding that their safety is paramount.
“The situation here in Texas — the scope, complexity and tempo we’re facing — is just unprecedented,” said Stanford, who oversees the agency’s forest resource protection division. “When these conditions are in place, wildfires can be catastrophic and deadly. They can become a true force of nature.”
For more information about how to prepare your home, go to www.texasfirestorm.org.
Current wildfire update:
- Yesterday Texas Forest Service responded to 8 new fires for 3,076 acres, including a new large fire in Brewster County.
- In the past seven days Texas Forest Service has responded to 81 fires for 14,232 acres.
- 250 of the 254 Texas counties are reporting burn bans.
New large fires from yesterday (more than 100 acres in timber, 300 acres in lighter fuels; or where homes were lost):
SHACKELFORD, Brewster County: 3,000 acres, no containment. Very active fire was observed in grass and brush yesterday. The fire is in an inaccessible area. SEATs worked the fire yesterday and air attack will monitor the fire today.
Uncontained fires from previous days (more than 100 acres in timber, 300 acres in lighter fuels):
COPPER BREAKS, Foard County. 8,080 acres, 90 percent contained. Crews continue to work hot spots and secure the fire perimeter.
BASTROP COUNTY COMPLEX, Bastrop County. 34,068 acres, 98 percent contained. Crews and equipment continue to mop up and protect homes within the perimeter. There is no fire burning outside the main containment lines. An assessment team has confirmed 1,554 homes have been destroyed on the large Bastrop fire and the Union Chapel Fire. Two civilians were found dead as search crews went through the charred subdivisions.
101 RANCH, Palo Pinto County. 6,555 acres, 95 percent contained. Crews and aircraft continue to monitor the fire. Thirty-nine homes and nine RV’s have been reported destroyed. Crews continue to mop up and aircraft are monitoring.
West: A diffused stationary front extended from around Lufkin west to Ozona, then north along the West
Texas-New Mexico boundary will slowly move northward a little during the day with isolated afternoon or evening convection along and near the front. Afternoon temperatures will be warmer where the front passes before mid-afternoon. Scattered high clouds will be spreading across the northwest and west branches in the afternoon while some afternoon clouds will develop along and south of the front. Breezy winds are expected along the coastal counties, especially southwest of Port Lavaca. Humidity recovery tonight will be fair over the west branch and along the New Mexico border and good to excellent over the other branches.
East: A significant low pressure aloft to the northeast will continue northwest flow and help track weather disturbances through the area helping to influence the weather the next couple of days. Near the surface, a stationary front oriented west to east across Branch III of the Henderson dispatch will help focus shower and thunderstorm activity early Tuesday across Branch II and Branch III as a weak upper level disturbance moves eastward. Minimum relative humidity for Tuesday will be higher in the Henderson dispatch area (up 5 to 10 percent) especially if precipitation falls along the front. Another disturbance in the northwest flow late Tuesday will bring another chance for showers starting north and moving south through the region as northerly surface winds push into the Linden dispatch area. Toward the end of the week it looks drier and cooler with no significant events expected.
Welding and grinding are activities that require extreme caution. They are also activities that may be regulated by a burn ban. When conducting welding activities, keep the area clear of vegetation, have a spotter watch for sparks, keep water and a fire extinguisher nearby, wet down the work area and avoid welding and grinding activities during red flag conditions or on windy days.