The Texas A&M Forest Service raised the State Wildland Fire Preparedness Level to Level 2 this week due to increased wildfire activity, particularly in the eastern half of the state.
Preparedness Levels 1-5 are planning assumptions and actions dictated by fuel and weather conditions, fire activity and fire suppression resource availability in the state. Level 5 is the highest level of wildland fire activity and indicates heavy resource commitment.
Texas A&M Forest Service response numbers have steadily increased over the past few weeks, particularly in East Texas. Agency firefighters have responded to 58 wildfires for 759 acres across the state in October. Fifty-one of those wildfires were in East Texas.
“Conditions are forecast to deteriorate in East Texas over the coming days, and we anticipate wildfire occurrence to increase,” said Jake Donellan, Texas A&M Forest Service East Texas Operations Department head. “We need Texans to remain diligent with all outdoor activities that cause sparks. Preventing wildfires is the best way to ensure the safety of both members of the public and our firefighters.”
The fire environment on Oct. 8 may support wildfire activity in dry to critically dry timber litter fuel in the Western Pineywoods, Southeast, Northeast, North and Central Texas. Winds speeds are forecast to increase to almost 10 mph behind a passing cold front and will support wildfire growth.
The threat for large wildfires will remain low and is limited to pine and yaupon fuels in these areas.
Wind speeds are expected to decrease Oct. 9-11, but a moderate risk for wildfire remains for these areas, as no improvement in the dry to critically dry timber litter fuel is expected.
“Texas A&M Forest Service has a long history of working closely with local fire departments across the state,” said Wes Moorehead, Texas A&M Forest Service fire chief. “Our agency personnel provide expertise in heavy equipment, like bulldozers, to help these departments suppress wildfires that ignite in the heavy timber fuels of this area.”
In anticipation of wildfire activity, the agency has strategically staged personnel and equipment across areas of concern for a fast response. This includes the addition of a helicopter, which carries at least 700 gallons of water, in Smithville.
Texas A&M Forest Service does not own any aviation resources but instead uses federal aviation contracts through the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management for all firefighting aircraft.
Stay wildfire aware. If a wildfire is spotted, immediately contact local authorities. A quick response can help save lives and property.
For current conditions and wildfire outlook, read the Texas Fire Potential Outlook at https://bit.ly/3kemhbG.