Wildfires Continue in Texas; More than 1.8M Acres Burned This Year

Wildfires Continue in Texas; More than 1.8M Acres Burned This Year

21 April 2011

published by www.insurancejournal.com

USA — As wildfires continue to rage in almost every region of the state, the Texas Forest Service reports that 6,061 fires and more than 1.8 million acres have burned since the beginning of the year.

Much of the burned acreage has comprised vast stretches of unoccupied rangeland but rural towns and urban areas have been affected as well.

Firefighting teams from all over the United States are being brought in to fight the blazes that are being fueled by high winds and dry vegetation, the result of one of the worst droughts in the state’s history.

As of April 20, a fire that has destroyed 150,000 acres and 150 mostly upscale homes around Possum Kingdom Lake about 70 miles west of Fort Worth continued to burn as a team of 50 people from federal and state agencies took over management of the firefighting efforts.

Authorities ordered the 400 residents of Palo Pinto about 50 miles west of Fort Worth to leave the city on April 18 because of the advancing flames, said Trooper Gary Rozzell of the Texas Department of Public Safety. The county’s jail inmates also were evacuated, the Associated Press reported.

While officials have said that the Possum Kingdom fire is unlikely to directly threaten Fort Worth, one of Texas’ largest metropolitan areas, the state fire marshal has pointed out rangeland fires are not only a problem for rural homeowners. Over the last two years, 85 percent of the wildfires in Texas have occurred within two miles of a community, according to the Fire Marshall’s office. Plus, much of Texas’ population growth has occurred in what is called the urban wildland interface, where subdivisions and businesses meet surrounding forests and fields, increasing the risk to dwellings and other structures.

A weekend wildfire that began in an uninhabited area near Oak Hill in Southwest Austin destroyed or damaged 21 homes causing an estmated $5 million in losses, the Austin American Statesman reported. Fire officials said the blaze started when a homeless man left his campfire untended and the wind blew an ember into the tinder-dry vegetation that can be found throughout the state. The fire spread quickly and forced the evacuation of about 200 homes before crews were able to contain it.

The Texas Forest Service said that on April 20 it responded to four new fires that encompassed 1,005 acres, mostly in Deaf Smith County.

A report released by the Texas Forest Service on April 21 shows the following fires remain uncontained in Texas:

  • Pk Complex, Stephens and Palo Pinto Counties. 147,065 acres total. PK West Fire is 89,715 acres, unknown containment. PK East Fire is 10,996 acres, 25 percent contained. Hohertz Fire is 40,575 acres, unknown containment. Jackson Ranch Fire is 6,687 acres, 50 percent contained. These fires are burning near Possum Kingdom Lake, Caddo, Strawn, and Bunger which all have had evacuations; 600-plus homes are threatened. PK subdivisions: Sportsman World, 56 homes destroyed; Gaines Bend, 37 homes destroyed; Hog Bend, 24 homes destroyed; additional assessments of Hell’s Gate, Peninsula and Cliff area continue.
  • Mossy Rock Ranch, Stephens County. 800 acres, 75 percent contained. Located 8.5 miles southwest of Caddo.
  • Southwest Royalty Fire, Garza County. 2,000 acres, 40 percent contained. Ten homes are threatened. Heavy airtankers and single-engine air tankers assisted on this fire. This fire is 5 miles east of Wilson.
  • Wildcat, Coke County. 158,867 acres, 30 percent contained. This fire is burning north of San Angelo. More than 400 homes have been saved. The communities of Grape Creek, Quail Valley, Bronte, Robert Lee, Tennyson and Orient are threatened. Evacuations had been in effect for multiple communities, now currently lifted. With winds predicted from the east/northeast, firefighter crews will focus on structure protection on the southwest flank of the fire as well as conduct mop up operations on the eastern flank. Aviation resources will continue to aid in suppression and establishing fire control lines.
  • Rockhouse, Presidio and Jeff Davis counties. 202,150 acres, 75 percent contained. Twenty-three homes and two businesses were destroyed in the Ft. Davis area. Ten 20-person hand crews continue to work the fire.
  • Cooper Mountain Ranch, Kent, Stonewall, Scurry and Fisher counties. 162,625 acres, 90 percent contained. Four homes have been destroyed.
  • Swenson, Stonewall, King, and Knox counties. 122,500 acres, 90 percent contained. The fire is burning near Swenson.
  • Bryson Complex, Jack County. 7,500 acres, 70 percent contained. More than 150 homes were threatened and saved in the town of Bryson. 70 people have been evacuated. The complex is made up of the 5,300-acre 1191/Rockcreek Fire and the 2,200-acre Shanafelt Fire.
  • Pipeline, Tyler County. 7,000 acres, 85 percent contained. Forty homes are threatened on the fire burning in pine plantation 10 miles northeast of Kountze. Two National Guard Blackhawks from San Antonio are assisting.
  • Smith, Young County. 2,000 acres, 85 percent contained. The fire is burning six miles northeast of Graham. No other information was received.
  • CR 104, Eastland County. 2,000 acres, 85 percent contained. The fire is burning two miles north of Cisco. 1,850 homes were threatened in the city of Cisco, as well as a church camp. Five homes and 1 vehicle destroyed.
  • Wichita County Complex, Wichita County. 11,785 acres, 90 percent contained. The complex is made up of three fires – Iowa West, Holiday, Missile – burning around Wichita Falls. Shepard Air Force Base was threatened, as were hundreds of homes and apartment complexes around the area. Seven homes are destroyed.
  • East Sidwynicks, Eastland County. 3,000 acres, 95 percent contained. The fire is burning near Carbon City. 1,200 homes were threatened.
  • Sutton, Crockett County. 31,120 acres, 90 percent contained. The fire is burning 20 miles southwest of Ozona.
  • Middle Pease, Motley County. 400 acres, 90 percent contained. SEATs responded. Located two miles northwest of Matador.
  • Dad’s Corner, Archer County. 6,100 acres, 70 percent contained. Located 15 miles south southwest of Wichita Falls. Fifteen homes are threatened.

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