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Wildland Fire Preparedness Level Raised

COLLEGE STATION, Texas: Texas A&M Forest Service raised the Wildland Fire Preparedness Level to Level 2 due to the threat of increased wildfire activity across several state regions.

Preparedness Levels are planning assumptions that fuel and weather-dictated 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 state’s western half may support increased activity in dry, dormant grasses through Wednesday. In addition, areas with dry vegetation south and west of Amarillo and Wichita Falls, down to Del Rio, will increase activity when exposed to elevated localized fire weather.

A storm system and cold front should move into Texas on Thursday, bringing elevated fire weather to areas south of Lubbock, Abilene, and 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 and single-engine air tanker bases in Alpine and Alice.

One large air tanker, seven single-engine air tankers, one air attack platform, and one aerial supervision module should 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 support 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. In addition, 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.

Areas of concern have five strike teams mobilized via the Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System (TIFMAS).

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 observed fire weather 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 is currently an estimated 2,800 acres and 10% contained and is burning in complex, rugged terrain. Crews cannot rely on heavy mechanized equipment, but additional Texas A&M Forest Service firefighters have 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 owns no aviation resources but 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.