Sept. 7 update:
Dangerous fire conditions persist across much of the state
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — A surge of new wind-driven wildfires in Texas may have destroyed up to 700 homes in just two days during the Labor Day weekend, the Texas Forest Service said in its daily update.
There is still conflicting information about deaths resulting from the Bastrop Fire, with two reported fatalities and two additional deaths possible. A special 100-member search team has been deployed to search burned homes in the Bastrop area.
Strong winds on the west side of Tropical Storm Lee re-ignited earlier fires and quickly fanned new blazes into nearly uncontrollable infernos, including a monster fire in Bastrop County, near Austin, that’s grown to 30,000 acres. Firefighters still haven’t been able to contain the Bastrop Fire despite repeated attacks by air tankers. Numerous neighborhoods have been evacuated as firefighters focus on protecting homes in the area.
On Monday (Sept. 5) the Texas Forest Service responded to 22 new fires burning across 7,544 acres, including 10 new large fires. In the past week, the agency has responded to 181 fires burning on 118,413 acres, according to the daily Inciweb summary of the Texas wildfires.
Among the 10 new fires reported Sept. 5, the largest is the Riley Road Fire, at 3,000 acres. It has destroyed 20 homes, with at least 150 more facing an immediate threat as the fire moves south.
Since Jan. 1, fires in Texas have burned across 3.5 million acres and have destroyed more than 1,000 homes, according to Inciweb.
The weather forecast for the next few days is for more of the same, with warm temperatures and dry and windy skies.
Other new fires include:
TAMINA ROAD, Montgomery County. 150 acres, unknown containment. Two hundred homes have been evacuated in and near the Woodlands and an additional 400 are within a one-fourth of a mile of the fire.
UNION CHAPEL, Bastrop County. 750 acres, 10 percent contained. Twenty-five homes were destroyed on this fire just west of Bastrop. Aircraft responded immediately after the fire was reported, but were ineffective in the windy conditions.
MOONGLOW, Williamson County. 300 acres, no containment. This fire is burning in Leander where 150 homes were threatened. Thirteen homes are reported lost.
PETERS CHAPEL, Harrison County. 600 acres, unknown containment. The fire is burning actively in pine plantation. Numerous homes have been evacuated. There are no reports of losses.
#552, Upshur County. 200 acres, unknown containment. The fire is burning in timber. Three homes were lost and dozens remain threatened.
#854, Walker County. 200 acres, unknown containment. Thirty homes have been evacuated, five homes were destroyed.
#507, Anderson County. 1,200 acres, unknown containment.
#505 Rusk County. 400 acres, unknown containment.
#504, Anderson County. 800 acres, unknown containment.
Labor Day weekend update:
SUMMIT COUNTY — High winds and low humidity across much of Texas have worsened the fire situation in the state, with residents and officials reporting numerous new fires during the holiday weekend, including a firestorm in Bastrop County that’s reportedly 10 miles wide and moving at 40 to 50 mph.
The Bastrop grass fire is reportedly threatening up to 1,000 homes in the area and had burned across 14,000 acres by late Saturday.
Texas firefighters in the state have responded to 141 fires in the past seven days. The Texas Forest Service reported 21 new fires burning across more than 1,000 acres on September 3, with another five new fires reported by 12 p.m. Sept. 4.
High winds could hamper firefighting activities in some areas, limiting the use of aircraft. The winds could also stir up older fires and re-ignite smoldering embers. Updated information online at Inciweb. Follow #txfire on Twitter for real-time updates from multiple sources. More info at the Texas Interagency Coordination Center and at Inciweb.
Tropical Storm Lee isn’t helping the situation. Instead of bringing moisture to Texas, the storm has only generated high wrap-around winds, leading to red flag fire warnings across the eastern two-thirds of the state.
Hot and dry conditions are predicted to persist at least until early fall, unless relief is provided by tropical storms or hurricanes. On September 1, the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center released its updated U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook through November. The drought is expected to continue or persist across the entire state. Currently, 81 percent of the state is in exceptional drought, the highest drought category.
Recent new fires reported by the Texas Forest Service:
NAYLOR, Grayson County. 500 acres, 75 percent contained. Nine structures were saved.
Uncontained fires from previous days (more than 100 acres in timber, 300 acres in lighter fuels):
RANCH, Palo Pinto County. 6,600 acres, 60 percent contained. The fire is burning on the south side of Possum Kingdom Lake near the town of Brad. A small amount of active fire remains in an island in the interior of the fire, but all other fire activity is minimal. Nine strike teams of Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System engines are assisting. Evacuation orders have been lifted. Thirty-nine homes and nine RVs have been reported destroyed; 199 saved.
PICKET RUN, Montague County. 1,100 acres, 90 percent contained. The fire is burning in tall grass 7 miles south of Bowie.
CEDAR TRUCK COMPLEX, Kimble County. 400 acres, 95 percent contained. Thirteen homes were saved on this fire burning just west of Fort McKavett. This was a combination of 34 different starts along a 24-mile stretch of highway.
HORNETS TANK, Briscoe County. 5,500 acres, 90 percent contained. The fire is burning in juniper and grass in rough terrain near Palo Duro Canyon.
3547 ROAD, Wise County. 400 acres, 90 percent contained. Approximately 60 homes were evacuated near this fast-moving fire. Five homes were lost.
JOHNSON (JACKSON) RANCH, Edwards County. 600 acres, 95 percent contained. Three homes were lost on this fire burning 27 miles northwest of Hunt.
RICK RANCH, Sutton County. 370 acres, 95 percent contained. The fire is burning 24 miles west of Junction.
JACK MOUNTAIN, Coryell County. 3,000 acres, 75 percent contained. The fire is burning 5 miles south of Gatesville on the Fort Hood military reservation.
BUNDY ROSS RANCH, Edwards County. 600 acres, 90 percent contained. The fire is burning in juniper, grass and brush 7 miles southeast of Telegraph.
By Summit Voice
Follow Summit Voice on Twitter for the most up-to-date news feed.
SUMMIT COUNTY — Wildlfires in Texas have now scorched about 770,000 acres since early April including five new large fires, according to figures compiled by the National Interagency Fire Center, which also reported that firefighters were able to contain five blazes Texas blazes on April 17, but the Texas Forest Service said there were also 20 new large wildfires reported.
Nationally, the wildfire tally now shows almost 1 million acres burned for the year to-date, compared to just a quarter-million acres for the same period in 2010. The worst year on record was 2006, when about 2.17 million acres had burned by this time of year. Click here to see all recent NASA satellite images of the fires.
The Texas fires came after a record dry March, which is usually a rainy month in the Lone Star State. Above average moisture in 2010 spurred the growth of grasses and shrubs, and the recent lack of rain, warm temperatures dry vegetation and windy conditions have turned the grasses and shrubs into dry tinder, setting the stage for unprecedented fire danger.
According to federal officials, at least 23 large fires were burning in Texas as of April 18, with smoke plumes that are clearly visible from space. Texas Governor Rick Perry formally requested a federal declaration of disaster in an April 16 letter to President Obama, saying that, so far in 2011, 7,087 firefighters have responded to 7,807 fires, which have burned more than 1.5 million acres. Read Perry’s request here: http://governor.state.tx.us/news/press-release/16010/
• Cannon Fire Complex Fire – Three fires collectively burned 63,427 acres; fire is 80 percent contained;
• Cooper Mountain Ranch Fire – 152,000 acres burned; 4 homes destroyed; 50 percent contained;
• Jackson Ranch Fire – 2,200 acres burned; community evacuated; 50 percent contained;
• PK West – 50,739 acres burned; 31 homes destroyed and 495 threatened; 25 percent contained;
• Swenson Fire – 122,500 acres burned; 90 percent contained;
• Wichita Complex Fire – 11,785 acres burned; 20 homes destroyed; Shepard Air Force Base and surrounding housing threatened; 90 percent contained;
• Wildcat Fire – 103,772 acres burned; multiple communities evacuated; unknown containment.
Extreme fire conditions are expected to continue across Texas, with temperatures ranging into the 1990s, relative humidity below 5 percent and winds gusting up to 30 mph out of the southwest, with little relief in sight, according to the National Weather Service, which is calling for little change in the overall weather pattern during the coming week.