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article imageEleven new wildfires ravaging Texas Special

By Lynn Herrmann     Apr 20, 2011 in Environment
Midland - A recent rash of wildfires in Texas has worsened, with 11 new ones on Tuesday. With rising temperatures and little rain in the long-term forecast, conditions could worsen for resources already spread thin.
Several fires with unknown containment due west of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex continue burning, with 117 structures destroyed so far.
The PK Complex consists of a series of fires in Stephens and Palo Pinto Counties just west of Fort Worth. They are burning near Possum Kingdom Lake, Caddo, Strawn and Bunger, totaling 147,065 acres. All of these areas have had evacuations with more than 600 homes being threatened.
April Saginor of the Texas Forest Service (TFS) spoke with this reporter Wednesday afternoon to provide an update on the situation. “The PK Complex has an unknown containment at this time. The crews are still in the trenches and 117 homes have been destroyed,” Ms. Saginor said.
Fire retardant drop on Texas wildfire.
Fire retardant drop on Texas wildfire.
Photo courtesy Texas Forest Service
The largest of these, the PK West Fire, is 89,715 acres, with unknown containment at this time. The Hohertz Fire involves 40,575 acres, also unknown containment. National Guard Blackhawk helicopters along with heavy airtankers are assisting in these fires.
Resources across the state have been stretched thin because of the fires, fueled by critical fire conditions, including unseasonably strong and dry winds. Added to this mix are historic drought conditions that continue to blanket much of the state.
However, a short term weather forecast for north Texas shows increased humidity, thanks to a front that moved through on Tuesday, dropping hail and some rain near the Forth Worth area. “Today is the first day in 20 days that we don’t have extreme fire potential, so we’re hoping to make some progress,” Saginor added.
Another major fire south of the PK Complex fire is the Wildcat fire, north of San Angelo in Coke County. The fire involves 150,000 acres and is about 30 percent contained. “So far, more than 400 homes have been saved,” Saginor told DJ.
Ms. Saginor said the air resources have been invaluable, adding: “Each morning we evaluate the progress overnight, current weather conditions and forecasts to determine the most efficient use of these resources.”
As fires rage across the entire state, firefighters on the ground are receiving much-needed support from the air.
TFS reports that ground crews are utilizing air resources, specifically helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft including single engine air tankers (SEATs), for water and fire retardant drops and air reconnaissance.
In order to help with these resources, TFS notes four Modular Airborne FireFighting Systems (MAFFs) and a DC-10 airtanker are arriving. The MAFFs are part of a program established by Congress in the 1970s to provide military support for civilian air tankers.
Each MAFF unit contains a 3,000 gallon tank installed on a C-130 aircraft with the ability to drop a strip of retardant a quarter-mile long and 60 feet wide.
The DC-10, a modified McDonnell Douglas aircraft, has a retardant capacity of more than 11,000 gallons. Its computerized, gravity-fed water dump system, capable of being filled in just eight minutes, can release its entire load in just eight seconds. Its swath is three-quarters of a mile long and 300 feet wide.
Texas wildfire.
Texas wildfire.
Photo courtesy Texas Forest Service
Between Lubbock and Abilene is the 162,625 acres Cooper Mountain Ranch fire. It is 85 percent contained, covers parts of four counties, and has destroyed four homes.
The Rockhouse Fire in West Texas near Fort Davis, reported on earlier by Digital Journal, is 191,066 acres with 75 percent containment. Numerous airtankers and helicopters are assisting eight TIFMAS Type 1 engines and four water haulers in this ongoing fire.
A burn ban has been in effect throughout much of the state for several months. Currently, 202 of the state’s 254 counties are reporting burn bans.
Since the beginning of the year, TFS has responded to 810 fires that have burned 1.4 million acres and destroyed 370 structures.
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