Four Sawtooth National Forest wildland firefighters have been deployed toTexas and Louisiana in response to a high risk of wildfires associated withprolonged drought in that region.
Three of the firefighters left for Louisiana on Friday in a Type 6 engine,which is designed to fight wildfires. That crew arrived on Monday. Anotherfirefighter was sent to Texas to work on a helicopter crew.
All four will be stationed in the area for a minimum of two weeks with apossible extension of three weeks, said Bill Murphy, fire management officer forthe north zone of the Sawtooth National Forest.
The effort is a joint venture between the Forest Service and the Bureau ofLand Management, and extends throughout the Southwest, which is alsoexperiencing dangerously dry conditions, Murphy said.
“They need extra staffing due to drought conditions that area of thecountry is experiencing,” Murphy said. “They’re bracing themselves foran active spring fire season.”
Murphy said the dry conditions in much of the South have persisted since thefall, and the enormous amount of deadfall left in the wake of Hurricane Katrinahas only compounded the issue in Louisiana.
“The hurricane has left an extra amount of fuel on the ground, which (creates)the potential for larger fires,” Murphy said.
A wildland fire update from the National Interagency Fire Center on Tuesdayreported “12 new large fires” in the South. Three wildfires over 160acres in size were burning in Texas on Tuesday, while there were no active largefires in Louisiana.
To date, Texas has suffered its third driest fall and winter on record.Farther west, in Arizona, Phoenix has gone a record 139 days without measurableprecipitation.