“The rain in recent months has greened up pastures and has gone a long way in restoring moisture to parched areas of the state. But forecasters are warning of the risks of a summer without substantial rain. It wouldn’t take a lot for conditions to worsen quickly and put us back in the same trouble we found ourselves in last year,” McManus said.

Texas Ag Commissioner Todd Staples says much the same is true in Texas. Winter and early spring rains have been a welcome development, but he warns that drought conditions continue to prevail over large areas of the state. In response, he has established the Texas Wildfire Prevention Task Force to maximize wildfire prevention and mitigation strategies across the state.

“With a state as vast in size and as diverse in environment as Texas, we must be strategic in our wildfire prevention and mitigation efforts,” Staples said. “As Texas prepares for another potentially active wildfire season, it is important to ensure first responders, local and state officials and landowners are aligned in both fire prevention and response efforts.”

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a participant in the interagency conference call, says better planning between local, state and federal authorities is key to a quick and effective response system.

Federal involvement

“We are positioning federal and state fire assets, developing coordinated plans and a strategy that is focused on the national cohesive wildland fire management plan. [We must] focus on restoring the ecosystem to prevent fires,” Vilsack said.

National Forest Chief Tom Tidwell says the Southwest remains dry, and the middle part of the country could have a more severe season this year. He says federal scientists are monitoring weather patterns and trying to make accurate predictions so resources can be placed in the areas where they’ll be needed most.

“I expect this year's fire season to be as active as last year, when historic fires charred hundreds of square miles in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and elsewhere,” Tidwell warned.

Staples says the best solution to wildland fires is prevention and warns farmers and ranchers to take precautions to prevent the mitigation of wildfire.

“Controlled fire is the best tool to prevent wildfires,” Staples said. “Trying to control a wildfire is much more costly and difficult than eliminating the fuel for that wildfire before it starts. The updates in our prescribed burning procedures and the new Texas Wildfire Prevention Task Force will help reduce the risk of potential wildfires, which risk the lives of our citizens and damage communities, crops, livestock and wildlife.”