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Texas Is Preparing For More Wildfires

The number of acres burned this year is dramatically lower compared to 2022. But a rash of new fires have put state and local officials on edge.

Bastrop County Sheriffs Department evacuated businesses and residences as multiple first responders including Bastrop Fire, Round Rock Fire, Austin Fire Department and Travis County ESD join together to fight a powder Keg Pine Fire in Bastrop on Tuesday Aug. 1, 2023.

LUBBOCK — State and local officials are increasingly wary of wildfires engulfing Texas as hot temperatures and dry conditions increase the potential for damage.

Texas A&M Forest Service, which monitors wildfire conditions, this week raised the preparedness level to its second-highest rating. A Level 4 rating indicates there is a large amount of wildfires and state and local officials are dedicating more resources to fight the danger. The forest service cited an increase in fire activity across the state and the growing potential for wildfires to become more severe and harder to control.

At least 8,500 acres of Texas land have burned since Aug. 1, according to data from the forest service. And while most of the 11 active fires across the state Wednesday were largely contained, current weather conditions make it so any fire could grow rapidly.

Texas A&M Forest Service Fire Chief Wes Moorehead said in a statement the decision indicates “the complexity of wildfires across Texas is increasing to where they require more time, personnel and equipment to contain and put out.”

According to the service, they responded to 17 new requests for assistance on Tuesday that burned 1,094 acres across the state. As of Wednesday, nearly 70% of the state’s 254 counties had burn bans in place.

The fire conditions have been aggravated by high winds, hot temperatures and a lack of rainfall that has dried out grasses, trees and other natural brush throughout the summer.

“Gradually over time, as we’ve stayed in this pattern for the last month or more, conditions have become more conducive for fires to form and be more severe,” said Chris McKinney, a warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Texas’ wildfires so far have been milder than in previous years. In 2022, for example, a single fire in Eastland County in west central Texas burned more than 54,000 acres. In total, more than 538,000 acres had burned by this time last year. By comparison, just 55,000 acres have burned this year.

More recently, state officials are also taking notice of the wildfire dangers. Gov. Greg Abbott in July directed the Texas Division on Emergency Management to deploy more state firefighting resources to Llano County to contain the Moore Peak Fire that burned 707 acres.

McKinney said the conditions are in line with weather patterns that have impacted the southern and southwestern U.S. where potential rain is being pushed away by high temperatures. The risk is likely to continue, as August is typically the hottest month in Texas.


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