USA –Texas is in danger of extreme wildfires. Officials warn that Texas could soon surpass California in wildfire damage as a heavily-fueled fire season continues to threaten homes and lives from the Gulf Coast to the Panhandle. Heavy summer rains had produced massive amounts of grass that died in the winter freeze and has cured, resulting in the possibility of a large, catastrophic fire, warns the mitigation specialist with the Texas Forest Service.
Guadalupe County and surrounding areas in Central and South Texas have instituted burn bans. A wildfire has already swept through Cross Plains in North Texas, burning more than 7,000 acres and virtually destroying the entire town. So far during this season, wildfires that have occurred in the Texas Hill Country have burned past ash junipers and other trees without including them in the flames. But that condition is changing as a lack of rain is also drying out the trees. With the current drying trend in the weather, those junipers will contribute to the fire load.
By mid-March 2006, wildfires in Texas burned nearly 700,000 acres in the Panhandle and killed 11. During the 2005-06 fire season, Texas had 515 consecutive days of fire season, during which time more than 2 million acres were burned, 734 homes were destroyed and 19 people lost their lives. Texas Forest Service officials warn of a fire season that could exceed 2005-06 in the potential for disaster.
It has been predicted that were wildfires to burn in the heavy undergrowth and brush in Texas, the state could resemble California before the fire danger season ends. Fire starts include cigarettes, trash burning, pile burning, fireworks, catalytic converters, welding, cutting torch, power lines, squirrels on transformers, anything that produces sparks. The officials said residents in rural areas especially can help to avoid a grass or brush fire if they are careful and observe burn bans and avoid leaving fires unattended. Farmers and ranchers are warned to avoid piling up hay bales.
New residents in rural areas need to be prepared to see much longer response times to fires from rural volunteer fire departments than what they might be used to in a city. Many areas are served by Volunteer Fire Departments (VFD).
Spring rains are expected in March, but if they don’t come on time, the fire season and dry conditions of grass and brush in Texas will continue on into the summer.