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Saturday, August 13, 2022
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Wildfires Could Continue to Worsen

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Image of fires in Somervell County Texas | Image by Texas Tribune

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In the past week, Texas has been struck by a string of fast-moving blazes that have swept through communities in one of the worst fire seasons in a decade. As of August 2, over 600,000 acres have been burned in almost 7,000 wildfires, Texas A&M Forest Service stated.

On July 25, a spark from a mower created a fire in a field of tall grass behind suburban Balch Springs, which quickly spread out of control and enveloped over two dozen homes. Of the 26 homes affected, 9 were a “total loss,” according to fire officials.


As the fire tore through the neighborhood, many residents lost pets, belongings, and irreplaceable keepsakes.

“Monday changed the course of many people’s lives,” Balch Springs resident Fred Jackson told The Dallas Morning News.

A week earlier, a fire began roughly 70 miles west of Fort Worth, near Possum Kingdom Lake. What started as a small ignition caused by sunlight magnified through a glass bottle eventually grew to a 500-acre blaze. Five homes were lost as fire crews battled hot and windy conditions.

Crews continue to battle the ongoing Chalk Mountain fire, which has grown to 6,755 acres southwest of Fort Worth.

This year’s fire season is expected to progress from bad to worse, ranking second behind the 2011 fire season, in which 4 million acres were burned. With temperatures remaining at or above 100 degrees in the daytime, fighting these fires is incredibly difficult.

“The conditions right now are so hot and dry that we just foresee experiencing this wildfire activity for the foreseeable future,” said Texas A&M Forest Service spokesperson Erin O’Conner.

Forest ecology researchers Susan J. Prichard and Keala Hagmann have claimed that climate change increases fire risk by accelerating severe droughts and lessening rainfall. However, evidence has begun to suggest that wildfires have become more volatile in response to the way we have been fighting fires.

In reality, the number of individual wildfires has dropped significantly from peaks in the 1990s, but more acres are burned with every coming year. Prichard and Hagmann explain that in a natural setting, small and sparse wildfires can be extremely beneficial as they periodically thin out flammable materials and lower the amount of available fuel.

As previously sparsely inhabited regions become more residential, fire departments prioritize extinguishing every blaze as soon as possible. This, however, can lead to a dangerous build-up of consumable woods, trees, and shrubbery which sets the stage for larger and more intense wildfires.

“Unintentionally, by focusing on short-term risks of wildfires, the U.S. is predisposing forests to burn under the very worst conditions,” the paper read.

Although the issue of wildfires is very complex, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has provided a few simple recommendations for fire preparedness.

First, stay tuned to local news, through radio, television, and social media, to keep updated on the status of fires. Residents should clear away all flammable materials and brush from a minimum of 30 feet around their home. Lastly, have a go-bag and emergency plan in case it becomes necessary to leave on short notice.    

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