Texas A&M Forest Service raised the Wildland Fire Preparedness Level to Level 2 due to the threat of increased wildfire activity across several regions of the state.
Preparedness Levels are planning assumptions that are dictated by fuel and weather conditions, current and expected wildfire activity and suppression resource availability.
“As dry conditions expand across the state, Texas A&M Forest Service has mobilized additional resources to areas of concern,” said Wes Moorehead, Texas A&M Forest Service Fire Chief. “This level of readiness elevates us to a Preparedness Level 2. Agency fire managers continuously monitor conditions and assess needs locally to best position agency resources across areas of concern for a quick and effective response to any request for assistance.”
This week, a warm and dry fire environment will support wildfire activity for much of the state.
Dry vegetation across the western half of the state may support increased activity in dry, dormant grasses through Wednesday. Areas with dry vegetation south and west of Amarillo and Wichita Falls down to Del Rio will see an increase in activity when exposed to periods of elevated localized fire weather.
A storm system and cold front is forecast to move into Texas on Thursday bringing elevated fire weather to areas south of Lubbock to Abilene and into South Texas. Dry, dormant grasses, record high temperatures and increased wind speeds may support wildfire activity in these areas.
To prepare for wildfire danger this week, Texas A&M Forest Service is opening the Abilene Airtanker Base as well as single engine air tanker bases in Alpine and Alice.
One large airtanker, seven single engine air tankers, one air attack platform and one aerial supervision module are scheduled to arrive Wednesday to assist with wildfire response in the state.
“Texas A&M Forest Service relies on aviation resources during periods of high fire activity to provide support to ground crews and assist in protecting homes as well as other critical infrastructure,” said Moorehead. “Suppression aircraft can respond quickly, increasing the likelihood that a new ignition remains a small, manageable wildfire.”
The agency continues to maintain fully staffed task forces across the state. Additional suppression equipment and personnel including fireline supervisors, command staff and incident commanders with advanced qualifications have been positioned in the Texas Panhandle and across South and West Texas to support response efforts.
Five strike teams mobilized via the Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System (TIFMAS) are positioned across areas of concern.
On Sunday, Feb. 26, a dynamic and complex storm system impacted the state bringing severe storms to the Texas Plains followed by strong westerly winds with speeds between 30 and 50 mph and gusts up to 70 mph.
The magnitude of the fire weather that was observed supported the growth of several wildfires, including the Big Fin Flats Fire in Oldham County (5,569 acres, 100% contained) and the Cobble Switch Fire in Hockley County (344 acres, 100% contained).
An ignition in Jeff Davis County near Fort Davis quickly became established in grass and juniper vegetation due to extreme fire weather on Sunday evening. The Solar Park Fire, which is currently an estimated 2,800 acres and 10% contained, is burning in complex, rugged terrain. Crews are unable to rely on heavy mechanized equipment, but additional Texas A&M Forest Service firefighters have been mobilized to assist with suppression efforts.
State and local firefighters have responded to 444 wildfires that have burned 12,845 acres this year.
Stay wildfire aware. If a wildfire is spotted, immediately contact local authorities. A quick response can help save lives and property.
Texas A&M Forest Service does not own any aviation resources but instead uses federal aviation contracts through the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management for all firefighting aircraft.
For current conditions and wildfire outlook, visit the Texas Fire Potential Outlook https://bit.ly/3kemhbG.
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