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Wildfire risk steadily increases, Texans warned of danger

Texas A&M Forest Service tfs-sterling-county-wildfire.jpg
Dry conditions following the weekend’s cold front have resulted in accelerated drying of vegetation across large portions of the state this week.

The Texas A&M Forest Service fire analysts warn of wildfire activity, including the potential for significant wildfires, through Sept. 30 in the western Piney Woods, Southeast and Central Texas.

While Hurricane Ian makes landfall in Florida and the national wildland fire preparedness level has decreased to a two, wildfire activity has steadily increased over the past two weeks in Texas.

As the lack of rainfall and high temperatures have dried surface vegetation, Texas A&M Forest Service firefighters have responded to 65 wildfires over the past week. The agency responded to just six wildfires during the first week of September.

“The 2022 fire season has been significant for the state of Texas, as state and local firefighters have responded to more than 9,800 wildfires,” said Wes Moorehead, Texas A&M Forest Service fire chief. “The state received beneficial rainfall mid- to late-August, which helped to significantly slow the operational tempo for wildland firefighters. However, the benefits of that moisture have started to wane, and we are, once again, observing dry conditions across the state that are resulting in increased wildfire activity.”

Current conditions, wildfire potential

Very dry conditions following the weekend’s cold front have resulted in accelerated drying of vegetation across large portions of the state this week.

Multiple days of relative humidity values below 25% will result in widespread critically to extremely dry surface fuel in the eastern half of the state by the end of the week. Wind speeds are forecast to increase to 10-15 mph out of the northeast and, when combined with dry vegetation, will support wildfire growth.

There is potential for significant wildfires where pine and yaupon fuels are present in the western Piney Woods, Southeast and Central Texas. Historically, these high-risk fuels have produced high-impact or significant wildfires that threaten public safety and property. Any ignitions that occur may also be resistant to firefighters’ suppression efforts.

By the weekend, the Texas Panhandle may also experience increased wildfire activity in areas where cured grasses are present. Below normal rainfall amounts, low relative humidity and elevated wind speeds will support wildfire activity.

Stay wildfire aware, practice prevention

Texas A&M Forest Service is dedicated to protecting the citizens and natural resources of Texas from wildfire, and the agency has strategically positioned personnel and equipment across areas of concern for a quick response.

In Texas, nine out of 10 wildfires are caused by human activity, which means that most wildfires could be prevented by taking simple actions.

Stay wildfire aware. If a wildfire is spotted, immediately contact local authorities. A quick response can help save lives and property.

“It is important that all residents take care to prevent wildfires while conditions are windy and dry,” said Karen Stafford, Texas A&M Forest Service prevention program coordinator. “Consider waiting to conduct any outdoor burning or lighting campfires until conditions improve. Even if your county does not have a burn ban in place, we encourage everyone to be cautious with any activity that may cause a spark.”

For current conditions and wildfire outlook, read the Texas Fire Potential Outlook at https://bit.ly/3kemhbG.

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