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Texas A&M Forest Service warns of increased wildfire danger

published: January 12th 2023
by: Leighton Chachere
source: Texas A&M Forest Service

Texas A&M Forest Service firefighting resources are prepared to respond to wildfires as a cold front moves into the state Jan. 11-12.

On Jan. 11, the fire environment may support increased potential for wildfire activity for communities near Amarillo, Childress, Lubbock, San Angelo, Wichita Falls, Abilene and Eastland.

“Dry, dormant grasses will be exposed to elevated or critical fire weather and well above normal temperatures ahead of an approaching cold front,” said Luke Kanclerz, Texas A&M Forest Service fire analyst. “The risk of significant fires that are highly resistant to control is expected to be limited due to the lack of critically dry fuel and less grass observed across the West Texas landscape.”

Last year, grass production was limited during the growing season as a result of the drought and from livestock grazing. Below normal grass production may limit wildfire growth and aid firefighters in keeping wildfires small. 

On Jan. 12, the potential for wildfire activity is expected to shift south and east as the cold front exits the state.

Elevated fire weather following the front, combined with dry, dormant grasses may support increased wildfire potential for communities near Waco, San Antonio, Austin, Victoria, Kingsville, Brownsville and McAllen. However, the threat for large, significant fires will remain low for these areas.

Dormant fire season

In Texas, the dormant fire season, occurring during winter and spring, is generally characterized by freeze-cured grasses across the landscape and increased wind speeds surrounding dry cold fronts. Freeze-cured grasses are the catalyst for the dormant fire season, requiring less drying and moderate fire weather for wildfire activity.

After a hard freeze Dec. 23-24, freeze-cured, dormant grasses are present across the entire state.

Texas A&M Forest Service is monitoring the situation and working with state and local partners to prepare and respond to any wildfire incident.

“When the forecast indicates an increased potential for wildfire activity, our agency strategically positions personnel and equipment in areas of concern to quickly respond to requests for assistance from local fire departments who are our first line of defense,” said Wes Moorehead, Texas A&M Forest Service fire chief, Bryan-College Station. “Personnel and equipment, including fully staffed task forces, dozers and engines, are prepared for a quick and effective response to any new wildfire in these areas.”

Since Jan. 1, state and local firefighters have responded to 27 wildfires burning 97 acres across the state.

Texas A&M Forest Service encourages the public to avoid outdoor activities that may cause a spark while dry and windy conditions are present.

For current conditions and wildfire outlook, visit the Texas Fire Potential Outlook at https://bit.ly/3kemhbG.

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