COLLEGE STATION, Texas: A combination of above-normal temperatures, low humidity, dry fuel, and strong winds will create the potential for extreme fire conditions across large portions of the state early this week.
Today, conditions capable of producing large fires could happen across the Western Plains, including Canadian, Childress, Amarillo, and Lubbock.
On Tuesday, extreme fire weather is forecast in the Texas Panhandle near Canadian, Amarillo, and Childress, with relative humidity values in the single digits and 40 mph sustained winds with gusts exceeding 60 mph.
“We have critically dry fuels, complex terrain, and higher temperatures in the forecast for that area,” said Wes Moorehead, Texas A&M Forest Service Fire Chief. “These are prime fire conditions, and we’ve staged personnel and equipment in the area to facilitate an immediate response to requests for assistance.”
The conditions could lead to a dangerous fire weather phenomenon known as a Southern Plains Wildfire Outbreak, or SPWO. Wildfires that ignite during SPWO events exhibit extreme fire behavior and rapid growth and are difficult to control.
Since 2005, SPWO fires have accounted for 3% of reported wildfires but nearly half of the acres burned. Last year, a complex of fires that ignited under SPWO conditions burned more than 54,000 acres in Eastland County.
Last week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott directed the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) to mobilize wildfire resources to support local officials in preparation for wildfire potential in the Panhandle, Southern Plains, Permian Basin, and West Texas. As a result, Texas A&M Forest Service staged three Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System (TIFMAS) strike teams comprised of approximately 50 firefighters and 15 fire engines, seven single-engine air tankers, two air attack platforms and heavy equipment such as bulldozers.
On Friday, Governor Abbott called for an additional TIFMAS strike team of approximately 15 firefighters and five fire engines to support wildfire response.
In addition to staging resources in impacted areas, Texas A&M Forest Service coordinates with the Texas Division of Emergency Management and National Weather Service to monitor conditions and work with local officials to prepare resources.
People in the affected areas should be aware of the conditions and watch local media for updates as needs evolve, contact local authorities if smoke is spotted, and be cautious with any activity that could create a spark. A quick response can save lives and property. Evacuations are familiar with SPWO events. Have an evacuation plan and be ready to leave with short notice.
For current fire conditions, visit https://tfsweb.tamu.edu/CurrentSituation/.