COLLEGE STATION, Texas—The fire environment, characterized by critically to parched vegetation and critical fire weather, will support wildfire activity this week.
Areas of concern include the eastern Rolling Plains, Cross Timbers, Central Texas, North Texas near the Waco and Dallas-Fort Worth areas, and south along the I-35 corridor near the Capital region. The risk for significant fires is also expanding east to include portions of East Texas, including areas near Palestine, Crockett, Huntsville, Tyler, and Marshall.
Ninety-nine percent of the state is experiencing some level of drought. The rainfall received last week was minimal and offered only a reprieve from the dry conditions in some areas.
On Monday, elevated to critical fire weather and critically dry vegetation contributed to extreme fire behavior in parts of North Central Texas and East Texas. They reported an active crown fire and short-range spotting of embers and flammable material one-quarter mile before the significant wildfire.
“The wildfires in Palo Pinto, Somervell, and Walker counties occurred in high-risk fuel types. That can exhibit extreme fire behavior when critically dry and exposed to elevated or critical fire weather,” said Luke Kanclerz, Texas A&M Forest Service Fire Analyst. “In these fuels, resistance to control is often high, making suppression efforts challenging for firefighters.”
State and local firefighters, including Texas A&M Forest Service and Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System (TIFMAS) personnel, responded to 18 wildfires Monday for an estimated 6,594 acres burned. It includes the still-burning 1148 Fire in Palo Pinto County, the Chalk Mountain Fire in Somervell County, and the Nelson Creek Fire in Walker County.
The 1148 Fire ignited in Palo Pinto County on the north side of Possum Kingdom Lake. The fire quickly escaped initial suppression efforts prompting local officials to evacuate residents in the area. The evacuations have since been made voluntary. Firefighters engaged in structure protection and constructing containment lines while suppression aircraft, including three fire boss single-engine air tankers, helicopters, and large air tankers, provided aerial support. The fire is an estimated 500 acres and 10% contained.
The Chalk Mountain Fire in Somervell County ignited southwest of Glen Rose and spread quickly through dry vegetation. The fire is an estimated 4,000 acres and 10% contained. Fire crews focused on life safety, structure protection operations, and constructing containment lines where possible.
The Nelson Creek Fire in Walker County is burning approximately nine miles north of Huntsville and is 1,800 acres and 35% contained. Ground crews and aviation resources made good progress overnight despite active fire behavior. The fire has burned into rough terrain, and forward progression has slowed.
“The conditions observed yesterday contributed to extremely active wildfires across the state,” said Wes Moorehead, Texas A&M Forest Service Fire Chief. “The increased operational tempo will continue over the next week. Texas A&M Forest Service has strategically positioned incident commanders, fire personnel, equipment, and aircraft across areas of concern for a quick response.”
Aviation resources were available to assist throughout the day, and additional aircraft were ordered to respond, including a DC-10, one of the largest aircraft in the national air tanker fleet. Suppression aircraft dropped 141,000 gallons of water and retardant throughout the afternoon, effectively helping to slow the spread of the wildfires. They are currently staging a total of 38 aircraft in Texas for wildfire response.
Stay wildfire aware. If a wildfire is spotted, immediately contact local authorities. A quick response can help save lives and property.
For current conditions and wildfire outlook, visit the Texas Fire Potential Outlook https://bit.ly/3kemhbG.
Texas A&M Forest Service does not own any aviation resources but uses federal aviation contracts through the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management for all firefighting aircraft.