Texas fire situation is of ‘historic proportions’

• The fuels are so dry. • The winds are astronomical. • The behavior of the winds is a perplexing situation. • It's never been like this before.

AccuWeather.com reports in what has been described as being almost the "perfect fire storm," a never-before-seen wildfire situation in Texas has led to the scorching of nearly 1,000,000 acres and destruction of hundreds of homes and buildings.

"This is a situation of historic proportions," said Victoria Koenig, public information officer with the Texas Forest Service, in a phone interview with AccuWeather.com Tuesday. "The fuels are so dry. The winds are astronomical. The behavior of the winds is a perplexing situation. It's never been like this before."

Koenig added, "When you put all the ingredients together, you're getting close to having the 'perfect fire storm'."

Factors Involved

Texas is in the midst of one of the worst droughts, in terms of the depth and expanse of drought conditions, since the early 1900s.

Dan Byrd, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Jackson, Miss., said, "This is an unprecedented drought situation (in terms of) how widespread it is and the depth of the drought. We haven't seen anything like this for the state overall since the early 1900s."

According to the latest analysis by the U.S. Drought Monitor on April 12, 2011, the entire state of Texas was experiencing abnormally dry or drought conditions with most areas in a severe to exceptional drought.

Took hold in October 2010

AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Jim Andrews pointed out that the extreme dry conditions started taking hold in Texas in October 2010.

With the AccuWeather.com Long-Range Forecasting Team predicting drier-than-normal conditions to persist right through summer, improvement in the dire situation will not come soon.

Perhaps the only good news in the longer range is the fact that high wind events tend to be less frequent in Texas during the summer than spring. Gusty and rapidly-shifting winds cause fires to spread and burn out of control while posing major challenges to firefighting crews.

Throughout the spring so far, storm systems have been passing through the Plains with high frequency, averaging about one system every few days. These storm systems have been generating high winds and extremely little rainfall.

Details on the Current Fires

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, there were 20 active fires in Texas as of Tuesday morning. The center also reported that the current active fires have burned approximately 930,360 acres and that additional aerial resources were being called in to help battle the blazes.

Byrd said Tuesday that the largest fires were affecting areas near San Angelo, the Davis Mountains and the Big Country, which spans a region west of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

The Wildcat fire near San Angelo has scorched an estimated 150,000 acres and was only 10 percent contained as of Tuesday morning, according to the Texas Forest Service.

As for the Rock House fire in the Davis Mountains, 75 percent containment had been reached as of Tuesday morning with nearly 200,000 acres burned.

Strong winds gusting up to 50 mph in Texas Tuesday will ease Wednesday, allowing better opportunities for firefighters to increase containment.

Showers and thunderstorms are forecast for portions of western, central and eastern Texas later in the week, though little of this activity is expected to benefit far western Texas.

Byrd stated that while any rain is good, lightning with some of the thunderstorms could spark new fires.

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