Marfa’s Volunteer Fire Department put out a blaze on Highway 90 today before it reached the grassland across the road. (Photo credit: Sally Beauvais/KRTS)
It’s been a dry couple of months in West Texas, and grasses, bushes, and trees are about as parched as they’ve been all season.
Over the last week, a combination of conditions are coming together to make for critically dangerous fire weather.
Amber Hluchan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Midland, says we’re at the peak of what’s been a period of prolonged fire weather in the area.
“Winds are strong and relative humidity, or the amount of moisture that’s in the air, is critically low. So any fires that develop will just burn right through all of the fuel because it’s ready – it’s ready to burn,” Hluchan says.
There have been a handful of small fires around West Texas over the last week. Hluchan says they all occurred along main highways, likely because of cigarette butts or chains dragging on the road.
Marfa Fire Chief Gary Mitschke put out a blaze on Highway 90 about a mile outside of town today, where a tractor trailer caught fire and pulled over. He says it’s lucky that the flames did not reach the pasture across the road.
“With the conditions, the wind out of the southwest the way it was, it would have taken off,” says Mitschke. “I don’t know if we could have caught it before it got up into Jeff Davis county again so, we dodged a bullet.”
In April 2011, one of the largest grassland fires in Texas history burned up over 300,000 acres of land around Jeff Davis County. Mitschke says the conditions then were not unlike today’s.
The National Weather Service is urging residents of West Texas to avoid any activities that may produce sparks or flames.