Governor Abbott Directs Coordinated State Response To Widespread Wildfire Conditions Across Texas

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construction equipment battling wildfire
Photo credit Texas A&M Forest Service

AUSTIN – Governor Greg Abbott today encouraged Texans to remain vigilant during increased wildfire activity this week as the State of Texas continues ongoing coordinated wildfire response efforts through the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM). Critical fire danger and widespread drought conditions have resulted in multiple wildfires continuing to burn across Texas, including the Chalk Mountain Fire in Somervell County and the 1148 Fire in Palo Pinto County. Both fires have caused local officials to issue voluntary evacuation orders for residents.

“The State of Texas remains steadfast in our ongoing coordinated response to help Texans and communities affected by or at risk of wildfires,” said Governor Abbott. “As we continue to deploy all available resources in response to widespread fire and drought conditions, Texans are encouraged to remain vigilant and weather-aware to protect themselves and their loved ones from dangerous wildfires.”

According to the Texas A&M Forest Service, critically-to-extremely dry vegetation and critical fire weather will likely increase wildfire activity this week. Areas of concern include the eastern Rolling Plains, Cross Timbers, Central Texas, North Texas near the Waco and Dallas-Fort Worth areas, and south along the I-35 corridor near the Capital region. The risk for significant fires has expanded east to include portions of East Texas, including areas near Palestine, Crockett, Huntsville, Tyler, and Marshall.

Current TX Wildfire Statuses

The 1148 Fire ignited in Palo Pinto County on the north side of Possum Kingdom Lake. The fire quickly escaped initial suppression efforts prompting local officials to evacuate residents in the area. The evacuations have since been made voluntary. Firefighters engaged in structure protection and constructing containment line while suppression aircraft, including three fire boss single-engine air tankers, helicopters and large airtankers, provided aerial support. The fire is an estimated 500 acres and 10% contained.

The Chalk Mountain Fire in Somervell County ignited southwest of Glen Rose and spread quickly through dry vegetation. Fire crews focused on operations related to life safety and structure protection as well as constructing containment lines where possible. The fire is an estimated 4,000 acres and 10% contained.

The Nelson Creek Fire in Walker County is burning approximately nine miles north of Huntsville and is 1,800 acres and 35% contained. Ground crews and aviation resources made good progress overnight despite active fire behavior. The fire has burned into rough terrain and forward progression has slowed.

Extra Personnel, Aircraft & Airtankers Mobilized

At the direction of Governor Abbott, TDEM is coordinating the state’s response to the active wildfires and collaborating with the Texas A&M Forest Service. The Texas A&M Forest Service has mobilized at least 105 dozers, 87 engines, and three motograders across Texas. In addition, 38 aircraft, including five large airtankers, one very large airtanker, 12 single engine airtankers, one lead place, five air attack platforms, and 12 helicopters have been activated to support firefighters combatting active wildfires.

“The conditions observed yesterday contributed to extremely active wildfires across the state,” said Wes Moorehead, Texas A&M Forest Service Fire Chief. “The increased operational tempo will continue over the next week. Texas A&M Forest Service has strategically positioned incident commanders, fire personnel, equipment and aircraft across areas of concern for a quick response.”

Hundreds of firefighting personnel are responding to fires statewide, including seven strike teams and a hand crew module deployed through the Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System (TIFMAS), totaling more than 115 firefighters, 30 engines, and four water tenders. Additionally, land management agencies from 36 states are supporting the firefighting response in Texas with 535 personnel and 145 pieces of equipment.

The Texas Emergency Medical Task Force (EMTF) has a total of 35 personnel activated, as well as five ambulances and 10 Utility Task Vehicles (UTVs). The personnel total includes five Medical Unit Leaders, 12 Wildland Paramedic Units, eight personnel in UTVs, and 10 ambulance personnel.

Wildfire Disaster Declaration

Last week, Governor Abbott renewed a wildfire disaster declaration that includes 72 counties affected by wildfire threats. The Governor also renewed a drought disaster declaration for 189 counties affected by exceptional drought conditions. According to the latest update from the U.S. Drought Monitor, more than 99 percent of the state is experiencing some level of drought conditions. According to the Texas A&M Forest Service, rainfall that some communities received last week only offered a temporary reprieve from the dry conditions.

Texans sustaining damage related to wildfires are encouraged to submit damage assessments through TDEM’s self-reporting survey at damage.tdem.texas.gov. Users should select “Wildfire Outbreak” as the active incident.

Texans can visit public.tfswildfires.com to view the current wildfire map, check the latest Texas wildfire snapshot by visiting tfsweb.tamu.edu/CurrentSituation, and follow @AllHazardsTFS on Twitter for the latest fire information. Texans can also visit ready.gov/wildfires for wildfire preparedness tips.

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