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Wildfire conditions raise state preparedness level to 4

North Texas wildfire

A wildfire in the north Texas counties of Roberts and Hemphill has scorched more than 39,000 acres. As conditions remain conducive for more blazes, the Texas A&M Forest Service has raised the State Preparedness Level to 4, the second highest. Texas A&M Forest Service photo by J. Rodriguez

The State Preparedness Level in Texas has been raised to Level 4, the second highest, announced the Texas A&M Forest Service on Thursday, March 31. The agency cited the significant increase in wildfire activity, potential for large fires, and the current commitment of local and state resources as reasons for the new level.

Over the past seven days, state, federal, and local fire agencies have responded to 192 wildfires that have burned more than 173,000 acres.

“The decision to move to a Preparedness Level 4 indicates that the complexity of wildfires across Texas is increasing to where they require more time, personnel, and equipment to contain,” said Wes Moorehead, Texas A&M Forest Service fire chief, in a media release.

The Highland Lakes area has seen a number of smaller wildfires, but the conditions are such that those could easily expand. The region has also endured several red flag warning days as winds blow 15-25 mph with stronger gusts.

As of Friday, April 1, the National Weather Service had not issued a red flag warning for the Highland Lakes for the first time in days. A hazardous weather outlook for elevated and near critical wildfire weather conditions is expected through at least Sunday, April 3.

A chance of rain is in the forecast for the Highland Lakes and Central Texas area Monday, April 4, which could bring some temporary relief. According to the NWS, the elevated- to near-critical wildfire weather conditions return the next day.

In response to the serious wildfire conditions and current wildfires across the state, Texas A&M Forest Service has stationed more than 300 of its firefighters along with another 200 Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System personnel across the state. Plus, fire units from 28 other states have arrived in Texas to assist and respond if needed.

“We want to ensure that the state has adequate resources to protect Texas’ citizens and natural resources from wildfire,” Moorehead stated. “We are working with other states to mobilize additional fire resources to Texas for assistance.”

State, federal, and local fire units are dealing with a number of wildfires across Texas, including the Borrega Fire in Kleberg County, which started March 30 and has expanded to more than 60,000 acres, making it the largest in Texas history. In late March, the largest fire was the Eastland County Complex fire. The Eastland fire consumed over 54,000 acres but is now 100 percent contained. The Borrega Fire is only 20 percent contained.

On the same day as the Borrega Fire, the Los Angeles Fire ignited in La Salle County. It has grown to 3,500 acres and is 30 percent contained.

In Roberts and Hemphill counties, the Canadian River Bottom Fire has bloomed to more than 39,000 acres since it started on March 29. Fire units have managed to stop its forward progress. State officials say its 40 percent contained.

Currently, Burnet, Llano, Blanco and Lampasas counties are under an outdoor burn ban.
editor@thepicayune.com