Texas Wildfires: Situation Update 9/13/11

Here’s the update from the Texas Forest Service for you. I’ve seen some predictions that put the temperature in the Houston area as high as 103 today, which would break yet another record. Winds out of the south won’t help matters either. Here’s the latest:

Wildfire update – Sept. 13, 2011

Current situation:

· Yesterday Texas Forest Service responded to 10 new fires for 179 acres.

· In the past seven days Texas Forest Service has responded to 127 fires for 9,205 acres.

· Assessment crews continue to survey the damage of numerous fires that occurred across Central and East Texas during the past week. It is currently estimated that 1,939 homes have been destroyed since Labor Day weekend.

· Engines from the Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System (TIFMAS) have been instrumental in protecting homes on many of the large, catastrophic fires around the state. In the past week, 135 engines and 559 firefighters have responded from fire departments across the state.

· Aviation resources also were critical in fighting the recent outbreak of fires. Since Labor Day weekend, aircraft have flown more than 1,800 hours and dropped more than 5.5 million gallons of water and retardant. Six heavy airtankers, three water scoopers, 15 single-engine airtankers, four C-130 MAFFS airtankers, 13 helicopters and 17 air attack aircraft and lead planes are being utilized. Eleven Texas Army National Guard Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters from San Antonio, Austin and Grand Prairie have been crucial in the fight as well.

· The latest drought monitor shows 95 percent of the state in extreme drought, with 81 percent in exceptional drought (the highest category). Seasonal outlooks continue to indicate drying throughout the fall, so the drought is expected to worsen.

· 250 of the 254 Texas counties are reporting burn bans.

· Daily detailed fire information can be found at inciweb.org.

New large fires from yesterday (more than 100 acres in timber, 300 acres in lighter fuels; or where homes were lost):


Uncontained fires from previous days (more than 100 acres in timber, 300 acres in lighter fuels):

BASTROP COUNTY COMPLEX, Bastrop County. 34,068 acres, 60 percent contained. The 719-acre Union Chapel Fire is now included in this complex and is being managed by the Southern Area Type I Incident Management Team. Crews and equipment continue to protect homes within the perimeter. There is no fire burning outside the main containment lines. An assessment team has confirmed 1,554 homes have been destroyed on the large Bastrop fire and the Union Chapel Fire. Two civilians were found dead Tuesday as search crews went through the charred subdivisions.

BEAR CREEK (#536), Cass County. 40,548 acres, 80 percent contained. Sixty-six homes have been destroyed just southeast of Linden. A Type 1 Incident Management Team is assisting with management of the fire.

RILEY ROAD, Grimes/Montgomery/Waller counties. 18,946 acres, 75 percent contained. The California Type I Incident Management Team will transition the fire to a Type 3 organization later today, but will continue to provide oversight for that fire and new fires in Southeast Texas.

DOTSON, Cherokee County. 1,900 acres, contained. The fire is burning 3 miles west of Alto in timber.

#262, Harrison County. 800 acres, 85 percent contained. This fire is under investigation to determine if it is a new start or a carryover from the #262 fire in July. Heavy airtankers, four MAFFS C-130’s and the DC-10 dropped retardant on this fire yesterday.

MARSHALL, Harrison County. 800 acres, 90 percent contained. The fire is burning actively in timber. Heavy airtankers, C-130’s, scoopers and helicopters assisted. Evacuations occurred but no homes were lost.

#548 (was #543), Rusk County. 380 acres, contained. The fire is burning in grass and timber.

DIANA (#545), Upshur County. 809 acres, 75 percent contained. The fire is burning in grass and timber. Twenty homes are threatened. There was a catchout yesterday.

BOOT WALKER (#553), Marion County. 1,047 acres, 80 percent contained. A wind shift to the south could threaten 30 homes. Access to the fire is limited.

OLD MAGNOLIA/MOORE, Gregg County. 4,909 acres, 80 percent contained. Several structures and a gas plant are threatened. The fire is burning in pine plantation.

101 RANCH, Palo Pinto County. 6,555 acres, 85 percent contained. Crews and aircraft continue to monitor the fire. Thirty-nine homes and nine RVs have been reported destroyed. Crews continue to mop up and aircraft are monitoring.
Weather Outlook:

Outside of the panhandle, a south component to the winds will be observed in most locations today as return flow continues between departing high pressure and a cold front dropping down through the Plains. The cold front should reach the northern panhandle around or shortly after the end of today’s operational period. Even as dew points begin to increase, warmer temperatures will lead to continued low relative humidity. Winds should gust around 20 to perhaps 25 mph in eastern portions of the Northwest Branch and portions of the North Branch. Instability will be greatest in these areas near the-I 20 corridor and elevated fire weather conditions exist there. Outside of the northern panhandle, highs between 95 and 105 will be common. Overnight recoveries will begin to improve along and to the east of the Interstate 35 corridor, but will remain poor in areas to the west. The cold front and passing upper level disturbances will bring rain chances to the panhandle starting tonight and then small chances later in the week to parts of the West and Northwest branches. Cooler temperatures and improved humidity are expected behind the front, however areas closer to I-10 will still remain warm.

A ridge of high pressure over Louisiana and a trough of low pressure developing along the Panhandle will keep south to southwest flow in place across the area. Very dry conditions and record high temperatures will occur again today. Relative humidity values will fall very quickly during the late morning hours as the temperatures begin to soar. Afternoon minimum relative humidity will drop to 10-15 percent across the areas north of a Huntsville to Lufkin to Carthage line while south of the line the relative humidity of 15-25 percent will be common. Light southwest winds will start of the morning increasing quickly and becoming gusty by 1000. Winds during the afternoon will be southwesterly at 8-11 mph with gusts 16-21 mph in those northern areas and over the southern areas south to southwest with winds 6-8 gusts to 17 mph. Temperatures will reach the 102-105 range north and 95-103 south. The sea breeze should reach a Houston to Woodville line around 6 p.m. bringing increasing relative humidity and slightly cooler temperatures. Mostly sunny to sunny skies will prevail over the region. Patchy fog with visibilities less than 2 miles will be possible for the areas from Conroe to Sam Rayburn Reservoir. Very good overnight recoveries of 90 or greater for areas south of a San Augustine to Crockett line. North of this line though moderate recoveries of 65-80 percent should prevail.


About M.J.Deare

I am a writer, actively researching topics of interest. I am also a graduate of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, with a degree in English, and have a master's degree from the University of Memphis. Born in New Orleans, I lived there until moving to northwest Arkansas and from there to Memphis, Tennessee. My husband and I currently reside in The Woodlands, Texas.
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2 Responses to Texas Wildfires: Situation Update 9/13/11

  1. As bad as the floods have been, the fires are destroying homes at almost the same rate. Prayers please!

    • M.J.Deare says:

      Yes, this has been a pretty terrible year in many places. Let’s all pray that the fires and the floods will be over soon. We’ve had about enough.
      Thank you for your comment. Take care.

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