Special to the Globe-News | Amarillo Globe-News
A Southern Plains Wildfire Outbreak is possible Tuesday in the Texas Panhandle. This event may impact communities near Canadian, Amarillo, Childress and Lubbock where extremely dry vegetation will be subjected to above normal temperatures, low humidity and high wind speeds, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.
This weather phenomenon is characterized by extreme fire weather and can be compared to the high impact Santa Ana wildfire events that occur in southern California. When these critical to extreme weather conditions combine with the extremely dry vegetation across the landscape, there is a possibility that multiple large, significant wildfires will occur prompting evacuations and threatening communities.
“Wildfires that ignite under these conditions can travel 20-30 miles in one afternoon due to the force of strong, hot and dry winds,” said Brad Smith, Texas A&M Forest Service Predictive Services Department head. “During these events, the forward progress of wildfires may not be stopped until the weather changes or the fire runs into a large barrier, such as an agricultural field.”
Regions near and west of Wichita Falls, Abilene and San Angelo may also observe increased wildfire activity on Tuesday.
The potential for wildfire activity is expected to continue Wednesday further east toward the I-35 corridor as widespread critical fire weather occurs over very dry vegetation. Communities near and west of Fort Worth, Waco, Austin, San Antonio and Laredo will have an increased risk for wildfires.
Since April 1, Texas A&M Forest Service, Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System firefighters, other state and federal agencies and local fire departments have responded to 212 wildfires that burned 30,231 acres. This total includes 69 wildfires that ignited since Friday, including the Training Area 23 Fire in Bexar County (2,803 acres, 50% contained) that ignited on April 9.
Texas A&M Forest Service continues to monitor the situation closely and has positioned personnel and equipment across the areas of concern.
Fully staffed task forces and additional suppression equipment are staged in Alice, Amarillo, Beeville, Brownwood, Burkburnett, Childress, Edinburg, Fort Stockton, Fredericksburg, Lubbock, McGregor, Merkel, Mineral Wells, Pleasanton, San Angelo, Smithville and Victoria.
Fireline supervisors, command staff and incident commanders with advanced qualifications are strategically placed across the state to respond. Additionally, 103 personnel from 12 states are currently in Texas to support wildfire response efforts.
Thirty-six aviation resources are currently staged in state, including three large air tankers, 15 single engine air tankers, six air attack platforms, two lead planes, five type 1 helicopters, two type 3 helicopters, two Blackhawks and one multi mission aircraft.
Eight strike teams are mobilized via TIFMAS and are strategically positioned across the state to provide wildfire incident support.
“Three outbreak events have occurred this fire season, producing wildfires that forced evacuations and burned through a community,” said Wes Moorehead, Texas A&M Forest Service fire chief. “These wildfires greatly impacted Texas communities and we anticipate similar levels of activity this week. Texas A&M Forest Service encourages residents to be cautious, be prepared and listen to warnings from local officials.”
Texans are encouraged to make evacuation preparations in advance of the expected wildfire activity this week.
Prepare multiple evacuation routes in case one is compromised by heavy smoke.
Assemble a go-kit that can be grabbed easily and includes the following items:
• Supplies for both people and pets.
• Prescription medications or other necessary medical equipment.
• Papers and important documents such as insurance and identification documents.
• Personal needs including food, water, clothing, money and a first aid kit.
• Priceless items such as photos, family heirlooms and any other irreplaceable or valuable items.
• Listen to local officials and, if necessary, evacuate early to get yourself out of harm’s way.
Nine out of 10 wildfires in Texas are caused by humans and their activities. Texas A&M Forest Service encourages the public to avoid outdoor activities that cause a spark while warm, dry and windy conditions are present.
For current conditions and wildfire outlook, read the Texas Fire Potential Outlook https://bit.ly/3kemhbG.