High risk of wildfire predicted to continue through next month
Crops, pastures, and rangeland continued to be stressed by drought in most of Texas.
Adding insult to injury, the high risk of wildfire would last through April for most of the state, according to Texas Forest Service and Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel. The problem remains lack of moisture, combined with a heavy fuel load of dry grasses and high winds.
On Feb. 22, these conditions contributed to the outbreak of 20 major wildfires from Amarillo to Ozona and Midland east to Matador, an area with a “footprint of about 45,000 square miles,” said Mark Stanford, Forest Service operations chief.
Stanford said the winds spread the fires at 4 to 5 miles per hour, creating the equivalent of a football-field-sized area burning every minute. At least 80 homes burned and hundreds of families evacuated.
Stanford and other forecasters feared that, without rain, the same conditions that fueled the Feb. 22 fires will continue to raise the risk of wildfires big and small.
“A total of 32,294 acres burnt and left some ranchers without any grazing,” said Ryan Martin, AgriLife Extension agent for Motley County, northeast of Lubbock. “Some producers were fortunate enough to have other pastures to move cattle to, but several had just pulled cattle off these pastures due to lack of moisture and grazing becoming sparse. Some producers were even forced to sell off cattle due to all of their grazing acres and hay supply being destroyed.”
Other parts of the state were spared the wildfires, but conditions in many areas could favor similar burns, according to the Forest Service.
More information on current Texas drought and wildfire alerts can be found on AgriLife Extension Agricultural Drought Task Force webpage at http://agrilife.tamu.edu/drought/.
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Southwest District, including Wilson, Gonzales, Guadalupe, and Bexar counties, reported the region remained very dry. Cumulative rainfall measured in Uvalde since Aug. 1 remained at about 35 percent of the long-term average for the same period and the second-driest on record. High winds continued to aggravate the dry spell and increased the incidence of roadside fires. Farmers planted irrigated corn and sorghum. Some corn had already emerged. Rain was needed to make dryland crop planting possible. Pastures and rangeland grasses remained in winter dormancy. Forage availability was below average. Ranchers remained busy with the calving/lambing/kidding season and were still repairing damage to livestock water facility pipes from last month’s hard freezes.
Compiled from Texas A&M University and Texas AgriLife Extension Service reports.