Weather conditions could create a perfect storm for critical fire danger

East Texas (News Release) – Today is expected to be a real test for firefighters in Texas.

There have been plenty of media and National Weather Service alerts for very high winds, low relative humidities, and high temperatures. Winds could be in the general range of 30 to 40 miles per hour with possible gusts to 60, starting in the morning in West Texas, and this system will move across the state eastward.

High-impact fire weather is predicted for the area west of I-35, particularly the West Texas Plains, according to experts with the National Weather Service and Texas Forest Service.

Predictions show high winds, low humidity and high temperatures on Sunday, meaning conditions could create a perfect storm for critical fire danger.

"Critical to extremely critical fire weather conditions are expected to be widespread west of Interstate 35 on Sunday," said Greg Murdoch, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. "A powerful system will pass across Texas bringing high winds to a good portion of the area west of I-35, but especially the west Texas Plains, mountains and from Interstate 10 northward from around Junction and San Angelo to between Childress and to east of Wichita Falls."

Wind gusts of 40 to 65 mph will be common across the plains and generally north of Interstate 20, Murdoch added.

"Very dry air will accompany the winds," he said. "The winds will result in areas of blowing dust that may extend from the west Texas Plains through the Rolling Plains. These weather conditions along with cured grasses will increase the potential for fire starts and certainly favors spreading fires."

The Texas Forest Service has prepositioned resources in strategic locations in anticipation of many requests for assistance. The Texas State Lone Star Incident Management Team is located in Merkel and is coordinating the dispatch of resources, including air resources.

There is a possibility that aircraft will not fly during periods of high winds. Out of state resources also have been arriving today to assist.

The Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System has been activated in advance of Sunday's predicted high fire danger day. Sixteen engines (fire trucks) from departments across the state are being stationed throughout West Texas in preparation for the potentially devastating conditions expected.

Governor Rick Perry proactively ordered the TIFMAS activation based on the extreme forecast.

Check http://texasforestservice.tamu.edufor updates on the fire situation.

Texas Forest Service urges citizens to take precautions and stay aware of local conditions.  Some prevention suggestions are:

  • Avoid any outdoor activities that may generate sparks or open flames.
  • Don't park or drive in dry grass.
  • Be sure there are no loose chains hanging from a moving vehicle that may make contact with the pavement.
  • When welding, wet down your work area, keep a bucket of water and a fire extinguisher nearby, and post a fire watch.
  • Clear combustible materials away from your home.
  • Do not leave any fire unattended and ensure all fires are completely out (cold to the touch).
  • Check current and forecasted weather before doing any outdoor burning.
  • Don't do outdoor burning of any kind until the threat of fire decreases and burn bans are lifted.