Wildfires across Texas this year have resulted in more than $33 million in lost fencing, pipelines and other farm assets, and that’s just in NRCS cost share funds, according to Bob Stobaugh, Texas Natural Resources Conservation Service state public affairs specialist in Temple.
As of late April, the state office estimated damage from wildfires across the state included:
Zone 1 - In the High Plains and South Plains regions, land owners have lost 12,186,240 feet of cross fencing. Prescribed grazing plans are now recommended on 421,000 acres, including deferred grazing to rejuvenate plant health and prevent soil erosion.
Zone 2 - West Texas rangeland losses include 786,720 feet of cross fencing, 30,000 feet of pipeline and 648,896 acres recommended for prescribed grazing including deferment. The area also lost 18 livestock watering facilities.
Zone 3 – South Texas, in the Coastal Bend region livestock managers lost 105,600 feet of cross fencing and 52,800 feet of livestock pipeline. Prescribed grazing, deferment, is recommended for 25,000 acres.
Zone 4 – East Texas – Tree site preparation - 8,224 acres; deferred grazing is recommended for 409 acres. Also tree and shrub planting is recommended on 8,774 acres and forest stand improvement on 8,453 acres.
Zone 5 – For North-central Texas, brush management is recommended for 45,000 acres. Lost fencing totals 844,800 feet. Prescribed grazing, deferment, is recommended for 120,000 acres; range planting is recommended on 10,000 acres. Also 50 pumping plants were lost.
As of April 26, significant acreage across the state remained in jeopardy for wildfire.
“Critical fire weather over critically dry fuels provides increased potential for significant fires,” he said. (See attached hazards map).
The Texas Forest Service responded to 23 new fires burning 12,726 acres, April 25, including six new large fires. Of the 254 Texas counties 211 report burn bans. The Texas Forest Service was working on 10 major fires that cover more than 530,000 acres.
New fires break out almost daily. Recent wildfires include:
- DETON COLE, in Val Verde County, 4,300 acres.
- SPADE RANCH, Terry County, 4,000 acres.
- FULLER, Scurry County, 2,000 acres. The fire was15 miles northwest of Snyder. MATHIS, Cottle County, 300 acres. One home was saved from this fire just on the north side of Paducah. T-BAR RANCH, Lynn County, 1,500 acres.
- TAYLOR, Concho County, 500 acres, 6 miles east of Eden. Some fires have been burning for days and continue to pose threats.
- ROCKHOUSE, Presidio and Jeff Davis Counties, 224,956 acres. Twenty-three homes and two commercial structures were destroyed in the Fort Davis area in the initial burning period. WILDCAT, Coke County, 159,308 acres. This fire was burning in tall grass north of San Angelo. More than 400 homes have been saved; one was destroyed. The communities of Grape Creek, Quail Valley, Bronte, Robert Lee, Tennyson and Orient were threatened, but all evacuation orders have been lifted.
- PIPELINE, Tyler County, 7,100 acres. Forty homes were threatened by this fire.
The Possum Kingdom Complex in Stephens and Palo Pinto Counties has been one of the most difficult fires to control and raged for more than a week before fire fighters could attain 80 percent control. The massive fire (four separate fires) covered 126,734 acres and destroyed 167 homes and two churches near Possum Kingdom Lake. Caddo, Strawn and Bunger were evacuated.
Lower winds and higher humidity beginning around the Easter weekend helped firefighters gain the upper hand.
“Weather remains the key factor in wildfire threat,” Stobaugh says. “Some areas have recently received much-needed rain; others remain under a prolonged drought with high winds that exacerbate wildfire threats. In West Texas, conditions continue to make the area vulnerable. Warm and humid conditions have mitigated wildfire concerns somewhat in East Texas.”
NRCS recommends that landowners, farmers, ranchers and others practice fire prevention measures, including:
- Obey outdoor burning bans. Don’t burn trash or debris when conditions are dry or windy. Unsafe burning of leaves, brush, household trash and other debris is the No. 1 cause of wildfires in Texas.
- Keep lawn mowers and agricultural equipment in proper working condition and avoid rocks and other materials that might cause a spark.
- To report suspicious activities, call the Arson Hotline at (888) 501-3850. If possible, safely obtain an accurate description of the person and/or vehicle (including the license number) before calling the hotline.
- Do not weld or cut without a spotter, a water source and a shovel.
- Humans cause more than 90 percent of all wildfires, so be careful.
For more information on drought and wildfire, check these websites: U.S. Drought Monitor
http://www.drought.unl.edu/dm/monitor.html. The Texas Forest Service has one of the most up-to-date information sources for wildfires at this time. http://txforestservice.tamu.edu/main/default.aspx?dept=frp