Updates on Texoma’s drought and potential for wildfires

Published: Sep. 14, 2023 at 7:06 PM CDT
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WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) - 1,054 is the number of wildfires Texas has seen so far in 2023. In Wichita Falls there have been 12. Since the beginning of summer, there has been a rise in wildfires in Texas due to the lack of rain.

That coupled with low moisture, dry grass, and extreme heat make for a perfect combination for a wildfire to establish itself and rapidly grow. Angel Portillo with Texas A&M Forest Service says most wildfires in Texoma were fuel-driven.

This means due to the drought’s effects on the vegetation, brush, and grass in the area, it was enough to keep the fire going even without any wind. Portillo says they saw many challenging fires throughout the summer but recalled one that surprised him.

“We went to one fire that at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning we were still working it and it was burning like it was 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Like the sun was beating on that. That’s how dry those fuels were and how dense it was. That the fire activity we were experiencing at that time was one fire activity that we would not see during the night time,” Portillo said.

Portillo went on to say when the sun goes down, they have “recovery” which is what they call when relative humidity increases along with moisture. Making it incredibly difficult to extinguish. However now that we have received some rain, firefighters will start to see a change in that.

According to First Alert Meteorologist Jaden Knowles, every bit of rain Texoma sees helps. Even if it’s in smaller amounts.

“We have a couple of storms moving in and it will help. We still need a lot more rain in order for us to get out of it but it’s going to help with the wildfires. We have cooler temperatures. So that lowers the evaporation rates making the atmosphere essentially not that dry,” Knowles said.

The preparedness level has decreased in Texas. The PL is what they use to determine how much support they will need from other fire departments. It factors in fuel and weather conditions and is rated on a scale of one to five. Five is the highest level of fire activity and indicates heavy resource support.

Portillo says judging by what has been seen in the last couple of days, the PL is expected to go down to a level 3.