As drought-like conditions continued for much of Texas, so did the threat of wildfire, according the Texas AgriLife Extension Service and Texas Forest Service personnel.

The Forest Service warned that as of about midday, today, there would be “extremely critical fire weather conditions … west of Big Bend, San Angelo and Wichita Falls, including major cities such as Lubbock, Childress, Abilene, Midland, Odessa and Amarillo.”

The predictions were based on a combination of conditions, including higher than normal temperatures and winds, low relative humidity and a plentitude of dry grass in pastures and rangeland.
The Forest Service reported it put fire-fighting equipment — bulldozers, fire engines and aircraft — in place for the Tuesday threat.

Meanwhile, much of the rest of the state remained dry, including South Texas.

“Coming into March, South Texas received less than 25 percent of the normal rainfall,” said Dr. Megan Dominguez, AgriLife Extension range specialist, Corpus Christi. “A lot of the farmers and ranchers are concerned, and there’s been some delay in crop planting.”

Dominguez said that though there were some scattered rains in early to mid-March, which greened up pastures and rangeland grasses, but for the most part, there has not been enough moisture to promote vigorous growth.

Despite the rain, the danger of wildfire remains high with numerous red-flag warnings, especially out west, she said, but some ranchers have been able to do control burns when wildfire danger was low.

“This has really helped to get rid of that high amount of weed and grass growth from last year,” Dominguez said. “I would encourage anyone to do the same — if the weather conditions become right.”

Dominguez said there were signs the La Nina current, to which the drought conditions are attributed, is weakening. In the meantime, she recommended ranchers keep stocking rates conservative until they know what the weather is going to do. With cow prices as high as anyone can remember, trimming down herds shouldn’t be too economically painful, she noted.

“Getting rid of cattle this time of year when you’re concerned about precipitation is not a bad deal,” she said.