Wildfires continue to rage across Texas, leaving thousands of acres charred in their wake.
The fires are the result of low humidity, lack of rain and high winds sweeping across the Southwest. Red flag warnings extend from the San Antonio area to just outside Flagstaff, Ariz., covering all of West Texas and New Mexico. Yellow flags, which represent fire watches, stretch from Round Rock to Harlingen on the southern tip of the state.
Twenty-two fires are raging statewide, according to the National Interagency Fire Center website. The closest fire to Abilene is the Wildcat Fire, a 159,308-acre fire just north of San Angelo. Lightning started the Wildcat Fire on April 11, and it is 80 percent contained. The next closest is the more expansive PK East Fire that surrounds Possum Kingdom Lake. That fire covers 10,996 acres. Other wildfires range from the Texas Panhandle to the Beaumont area.
Some speculate 2011 to be the worst year in Texas for wildfires, but Marq Webb, public information officer for Lone Star State Incident Management Team, said that is not necessarily true. Webb said 2006 was much worse for Texas fires, with 1.976 million acres scorched and numerous fatalities. This year, 1.838 million acres are burned with only two deaths, both volunteer firefighters. However, Webb said Texas is on track to pass the 2006 fires in acreage.
“I think we will easily surpass 2006 as far as acres in the next two days,” Webb said. “But that’s just speculation.”
Sunday’s thunderstorms and hail provided
only temporary relief for firefighters. Webb said the rain helped tremendously, but the effects of the storms will fade quickly because of high winds drying out fields.
“It’s going to go on until we get a significant amount of rain, maybe 10 inches scattered over a couple of weeks,” Webb said. “Until that happens, we will be fighting fires.”
Significant amounts of rain are not expected anytime soon as summer approaches. Joel Dunn, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in San Angelo, said things could get a little easier in the future.
“There will be no rain for the next seven days,” Dunn said. “There will be drier than normal conditions for the next month, but that doesn’t mean it won’t rain.”
Wednesday, wind speeds are expected to calm down to 10-15 mph. That is compared to Monday’s 20-25 mph winds. However, a cold front is expected Wednesday, changing wind directions to the north, which may cause more problems for firefighters.
Wednesday’s high temperature is forecasted to reach 75 degrees and Thursday’s high is forecasted to reach 81 degrees.
“Luckily, [firefighters] won’t have the wind speed to deal with,” Dunn said. “But the change in winds is still a big deal.”
All information about wildfires across the area is current as of April 25.
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