Area firefighters have sent responders and equipment to sites of 12 wildfires in Texas that remained active Monday afternoon, with the potential for more wildfires throughout the state outpacing suppression efforts.
Gov. Greg Abbott declared a disaster in Medina County, where a fire burned more than 1,000 acres and was only 10% contained on Sunday. The blaze had destroyed at least three homes, forced 40 households to evacuate and knocked out power to more than 100 homes, officials said.
New Braunfels Fire Department sent three responders and a brush truck to work that fire over the weekend, said David Ferguson, city communications coordinator. Robert Mikel, Canyon Lake Fire & EMS chief, said the department sent a unit to assist Sunday in Medina County, home to the Das Goat blaze, which began late Friday afternoon and worsened Sunday because of strong winds and low humidity. More than 200 firefighters are working to combat the blaze.
A weather phenomenon known as a Southern Plains Wildfire Outbreak, or SPWO, is characterized by dry vegetation, dry west-southwest winds, low humidity, above-average temperatures and sunny skies.
Since 2005, SPWO fires have accounted for only 3% of wildfires reported in Texas but almost half of the total acres burned. However, already this month, almost 123,000 acres have burned across the state, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service, which exceeded total acreage scorched in the previous three Marches combined.
The hardest-hit area is Eastland County between Abilene and Fort Worth, where more than 54,000 acres have burned and a sheriff’s deputy died while trying to rescue others from the flames last week.
The Crittenburg Complex fire near Fort Hood is the next largest fire; it has burned more than 33,000 acres in Coryell County, home to Lampasas, and is 0% contained.
“State, local and federal firefighters have been extremely busy responding to increased wildfire activity,” says Rich Gray, Texas A&M Forest Service Chief Regional Fire Coordinator. “Fire resources are mobilized to areas of concern for a quick and effective response to any requests for assistance.”
The Eastland Complex fire began burning more than a week ago and was 90% contained on Monday.
Mikel said two firefighters from his department and two New Braunfels firefighters have been working that blaze since it started 10 days.
Comal County initiated a burn ban at 6 a.m. Friday. Since march 5 there have been 15 grass fires in the city. NBFD responded to two small unauthorized burns and assisted Marion Fire Department in a blaze there over the weekend.
There was one notable grass fire in the 3800 block of Marigold Drive, where responders spent 15 minutes dousing a 20-foot by 3-foot blaze that had been mostly extinguished by residents when they arrived at 12:17 p.m. Sunday.
NBFD answered two vehicle fires on Interstate 35 over the weekend.
One was around 8:22 p.m. Saturday, where a vehicle was fully involved in the median of a construction zone in the 12000 block of I-35 North, started by a hot vehicle parked on the grass.
Firefighters returned to the venues main northbound lanes in the 400 block of I-35 at 4:24 a.m. Sunday, where they spent nearly an hour and a half extinguishing another car blaze.
No injuries were reported from the local incidents, Ferguson said.
The Associated Press and Texas Tribune contributed to this report.