Gov. Greg Abbott has issued a wildfire disaster declaration for about 75% of Texas counties, allowing them to use all available state resources to respond to any new fires as the state continues to bake under triple-digit temperatures.
The declaration was issued Friday as wildfires continue to spark across the state: The Texas A&M Forest Service, which monitors wildfire conditions, reports that at least 8,500 acres of Texas land have burned since Aug. 1.
The governor’s declaration covers 191 of the state’s 254 counties, including Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Midland and Travis. Many counties across the state have issued their own burn bans, according to the Forest Service.
“As we continue to respond to wildfire conditions across the state, Texas is ready to provide any additional resources and aid to impacted communities,” Abbott said in a press release. He also encouraged residents to remain weather aware and follow the guidance of state and local officials.
On Sunday, the Forest Service responded to 17 new requests for assistance on wildfires that burned 445.8 acres across the state. Last week, the agency raised its wildfire preparedness to Level 4, which indicates a large number of fires that are difficult to control and recommends a “heavy commitment” of resources from state and local officials to address fire danger.
Wildfires have destroyed homes, buildings and forests statewide. Last week, a brush fire in Cedar Park, about 20 miles north of Austin, tore through apartment complexes and townhomes, forcing evacuations in Williamson County and surrounding areas. Earlier this year, an Eastland County sheriff’s deputy was killed trying to rescue others when a massive, wind-whipped wildfire swept into Eastland, about 120 miles west of Dallas. Hundreds of families evacuated their homes.
The extreme heat and dryness this summer have not only put most of the state into drought, it’s also greatly increased the risk of wildfires, as Space City Weather pointed out over the weekend. Not a whole lot we as individuals can do, so be aware and be safe. Hopefully better days are coming soon.