Over nine hundred firefighters from over thirty states are currently working to extinguish wildfires across the state of Texas, according to Texas A&M Forest Service (TAMFS), the state’s largest firefighting agency.
“It is not uncommon for wildland firefighters to travel the country and assist where needed,” TAMFS coordinator, Keri Hines, stated on March 30. “Last year, we were able to do that ourselves since we didn’t have much of a fire season in Texas. We sent crews across the United States to help with the West Coast fire season.” Hines also thanked the volunteers for their tireless service in extinguishing the wildfires.
In addition to the firefighters from those states, the response also includes over sixty-five fire engines, thirty-five planes, and seventy local fire departments across the state of Texas coordinating through the Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System.
Despite storms passing over Central Texas this past week, strong westerly winds accompanied Wednesday’s cold front, which meant another day of high fire danger. From 10 a.m. until 8 p.m., a red flag warning was in effect for most of Texas on March 30, according to KXAN’s First Warning Weather Team.
City, county, and state officials have asked residents to avoid unnecessary outdoor activities that could cause a spark or a flame to create another wildfire. Even simple activities like a lawnmower striking a rock and sending a spark flying into the wind could become the basis of a fire. Other activities like outdoor construction projects involving dragging chains, welding, or grinding were also mentioned as potential fire starters that should be avoided.
Hines further explained that there are currently ten active wildfires in the state, an unusually high number for late Spring.
One of the causes of the fires was last year’s heavy rainfall, which caused an increase in the number of sprouting plants in certain areas. Those areas are now experiencing critical dryness, which resulted in excess fuel for wildfires to burn.
“When you combine that fuel dryness and that long-term drought conditions with extremely windy days, as we’ve been experiencing lately,” said Hines, “That can lead to wildland fires that are very difficult to control.”
Many counties in and around Austin, the state’s capital, have burn bans. On Tuesday afternoon, Judge Paul Pape issued an emergency order banning outdoor burns in unincorporated sections of Bastrop County. Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell also issued a similar ban as part of a Local State of Emergency declaration announced via Twitter on March 25.
Fortunately for residents across Texas, Hines shared that TAMFS is well equipped to handle the wildfire response this week with sufficient firefighters and resources to be allocated throughout the state.