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Texas wildfires continue, with long recoveries expected

By Lynn Herrmann     Apr 23, 2011 in Environment
Caddo - Wildfires ravaging the state of Texas continue impacting its residents, with the Possum Kingdom Lake community that has lost 160 homes and two churches thus far to the fires likely taking “years” to recover.
The PK Complex wildfires, a series of wildfires in North Texas that spans two counties in the Possum Kingdom Lake region and has so far scorched 208,000 acres remains a major fire, with the Texas Forest Service reporting it as being 25 percent contained.
Palo Pinto County Sheriff Ira Mercer notes the fires have had a devastating effect on the area, stating: “It will be years before this is back to what it used to be,” according to the San Antonio Express News.
Most of the destroyed homes in the PK Complex fire, which first started about a week ago, are weekend or summer homes in the resort community of Possum Kingdom Lake. The area, however, remains unsafe and homeowners have not been allowed to return.
“No residents will be able to come back in until the area is totally safe,” said Liz Caldwell, spokeswoman for the federal incident management team overseeing the PK fire, the Express News reports.
Since the beginning of the year, more than 1.4 million acres of land have been charred by 819 wildfires, destroying 424 structures in the process. Compounding the problem are fires in the state that are local responses only, requiring no state assistance. According to Texas Forest Service (TFS) data (pdf), those 5,422 local response fires have burned over 350,000 acres and have destroyed 478 structures.
Combined, those numbers amount to more than 1.8 million acres burned with 902 structures lost in the process and are staggering, considering the state has yet to reach its normal dry season of mid-June through September.
The Rockhouse Fire near Fort Davis in West Texas, reported on earlier by Digital Journal, is now 75 percent contained and has burned over 202,000 acres. The Energy Release Component (ERC) is a combination of live and dead fuels that contribute to potential fire intensity. According to the TFS, the ERC for Fort Davis is expected to reach 105, a historic high for the area. As the live fuels cure and dead fuels dry out, the ERC increases.
The state’s situation is so dire that governor Rick Perry on Thursday issued a proclamation, “Days of Prayer for Rain in the State of Texas” that urges residents to pray for an end to the wildfires and drought conditions, as reported by Digital Journal. His proclamation has thus far had little effect.
Much of the state remains in an extreme or exceptional drought category, with long-term forecasts showing no improvements. As the state approaches its typically hot and dry summer months, hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico making landfall along its central coastline are likely the only scenario bringing any relief to current drought conditions.
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