State resources were deployed to West Texas this weekend as wildfires intensified through the region, and dangerous conditions are expected to continue for the next several days. Currently, state resources are assisting local emergency responders in fighting 13 major fires in 12 counties, including Garza, Walker, Stonewall, Brown, Terry, Hartley, Midland, Presidio, Kent, Eastland, Potter and Sherman. Gov. Perry's renewed disaster proclamation remains in effect for 249 Texas counties, making them eligible to request assistance as needed to respond to the wildfires.
"As wildfires continue to spark across our state, we have taken steps to prepare for and respond to these dangerous conditions and protect threatened communities," Gov. Perry said. "Wildfires can start quickly, spread quickly and destroy quickly. It is imperative that Texans make plans to keep their families out of harm's way by heeding warnings from local officials, including potential evacuation orders, and adhering to burn bans."
In response to this weekend's activity, the Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System (TIFMAS) has been activated. Fire prevention and response resources from 60 fire departments across the state, including 74 fire engines, 18 command vehicles and 160 personnel from local fire departments, are deploying to Stonewall, Brown, Midland, Childress, Taylor and Palo Pinto counties, and the Texas Forest Service Incident Command Post (ICP) in Merkel, Texas. Resources will deploy and adjust location according to the changing wildfire threat and local needs. TIFMAS is a network of Texas fire departments willing to provide emergency resources to neighboring communities during threat of disaster.
Additional state resources responding to the extreme fire danger include:
· Texas Forest Service, with more 750 personnel and 22 air assets deployed to multiple fires;
· Texas Military Forces, with two Blackhawk helicopters currently deployed to a major fire in Eastland, Stephens and Palo Pinto counties. Two additional Blackhawks remain on alert in San Antonio for rapid deployment to assist with fire suppression efforts;
· Texas Department of Transportation has provided bulldozers and other resources in affected areas;
· Texas Department of Public Safety Highway Patrol and a communications trailer have been deployed to the Texas Forest Service ICP in Merkel.
The National Weather Service warns that unusually high winds, along with dry air moving across record dry areas will create extremely critical fire conditions today and over the next several days across a large part of Texas. Sustained winds of 30 to 35 mph with gusts greater than 40 mph are expected. The most extreme weather is forecast to be generally west of a line from Wichita Falls to Abilene to Fort Stockton.
The governor issued an Emergency Disaster Proclamation on Dec. 21, 2010, which was renewed on Jan. 19, 2011, February 17 and March 18. This proclamation remains in effect as extreme wildfire conditions persist. Additionally, burn bans are currently active in 180 counties. To see the list of these counties, please visit http://tfsfrp.tamu.edu/wildfires/decban.png
Since wildfire season began, Texas has responded to 6,831 fires across the state that have burned more than 643,000 acres and destroyed 151 homes. Rescue efforts have saved 6,556 threatened homes. For more information on preparing for wildfire threats, please visit http://texasforestservice.tamu.edu/main/article.aspx?id=8512
The State Operations Center has been partially activated and continues to work closely with the Texas Forest Service, National Weather Service and other state and local entities to monitor this severe wildfire threat.
To view the governor's renewed disaster proclamation, please visit http://governor.state.tx.us/news/proclamation/15854/