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Wildfire claims more than $150 million in Texas agricultural losses

The Riley Road fire that started in early September 2011 left tens of thousands of forested acres burned
<p> The Riley Road fire that started in early September 2011 left tens of thousands of forested acres burned.</p>
More than $150 million goes up in smoke this year in agriculture AgriLife Extension releases agricultural loss estimates from wildfires to date. Almost 6,000 miles of fence are estimated to have been destroyed. Timber losses top $97 million.

Since January, Texas agriculture has seen more than $150 million in agricultural losses due to wildfire, and experts say those figures are expected to continue to roll upward like the smoke pillars that dot the blackened landscape.

Dr. Andy Vestal, Texas AgriLife Extension Service specialist and director for Homeland Security and Emergency Management Programs, said structures, equipment, livestock, fences, pasture and timber continue to be lost on a daily basis, as fires continue to break out during this prolonged drought.

Dr. David Anderson, AgriLife Extension economist for livestock and food products marketing, estimated the loss is $152.1 million in agricultural financial losses through Sept. 19.

Anderson said damage to ranch and industry infrastructure represents the largest portion of fire losses. This infrastructure includes fences and agricultural buildings.

Almost 6,000 miles of fence are estimated to have been destroyed, he said. A recent survey by AgriLife Extension reported four- to six-wire fences with steel posts cost an average of $10,000 per mile to build.

Lost grazing for the year is the second largest non-timber financial loss category, Anderson reported, with almost 3 million acres burned through Sept.19.

More than 1,500 cattle, horses, sheep and goats have been reported killed by this year’s fires, Vestal said. Livestock losses are estimated using market values. Livestock losses are likely underestimated due to later death loss from injuries incurred from the fires.

Another major contributor to the economic losses from the fires in East Texas—the Bearing, Dyer, Powerline, Bear Creek, Angelina and Riley Road fires—has been timber.

From Nov. 15, start of the current fire season, through Sept. 16, an estimated 2,151 wildfires burned 207,763 acres in East Texas, according to the report. The estimated volume of timber lost is 175 million cubic feet with a stumpage or uncut value of $97 million, Vestal said.

This volume could have produced $1.6 billion worth of forest products, which would have resulted in $3.4 billion in total economic activity in East Texas, he said.

Listed is detailed information on 2011 year-to-date agricultural losses due to major wildfires, 2,500 acres or greater in size, through Sept. 18. Additional assessment continues across the state.

  • Agriculture structures, 198.
  • Agriculture equipment, 21.
  • Cattle, 1,133 head.
  • Calves, 142 head.
  • Sheep, 19 head.
  • Horses, 20 head.
  • Goats, 210 head.
  • Fence from fires of 2,500 acres or greater, 5,965 miles.
  • Pasture from fires 500 acres or greater, 2,953,510 acres.

Texas wildfire maps and additional home, family and landowner/producer educational resources are available on the Texas Extension Disaster Education Network website at: under the “Hot Topics” tab.

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