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Wildfire threat in Texas continues as windy and dry conditions persist

Crews work to contain the Ramsey Fire in Brown County on Sunday, March 27. As of Monday afternoon, the fire had burned an estimated 3,100 acres and was 75% contained.
Photo courtesy of Texas A&M Forest Service
Crews work to contain the Ramsey Fire in Brown County on Sunday, March 27. As of Monday afternoon, the fire had burned an estimated 3,100 acres and was 75% contained.

With nearly a dozen wildfires burning throughout the state, the Texas Division of Emergency Management is advising nearby residents to have evacuation plans in mind as conditions for continued fires extend through this week.

One of the largest fires began on the grounds of U.S. Army base Fort Hood outside Killeen and has since spread to private property in Coryell County. As of Monday afternoon, more than 33,000 acres had burned in what authorities are calling the Crittenburg Complex fire, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service wildfire response system.

“Relative humidity values, wind speeds and dry fuels will create wildfire weather conditions for significant portions of Texas to finish off the month of March,” the TDEM advises on its website. “Texans in the areas of concern are encouraged to make an evacuation plan with multiple routes, prepare an emergency kit with supplies, heed guidance from local officials and monitor local news.”

The Crittenburg Complex was about 45% contained as of early Monday afternoon, the forest service said. The blaze is the result of three separate fires merging, said Erin O’Conner, a program specialist at the forest service.

“They have since burned together so now they have created one large wildfire that started on the Fort Hood base and have moved onto private property," O’Conner told The Texas Newsroom.

In Kinney County, a 1,600 acre fire continued to burn Monday and was not contained by early afternoon, according to the forest service tracker. To the east, in Medica County, an 1,100 blaze dubbed the Das Goat fire was about 70 % contained. On Sunday, Gov. Greg Abbott held a briefing with officials there and issued a disaster declaration for the county. The Das Goat fire in Medina County is 95% contained as of Tuesday, according to The Texas A&M Forest Service. County Roads 2615 and 271 are now open. Resident reentry to the High Mountain Ranch subdivision (County Roads 2651 and 2652) has begun. The subdivision remains closed, except to residents who must present an ID.

The West Nueces Fire in the border county of Kinney has burned 16-hundred acres and was 20 percent contained as of Monday evening.

About 100 firefighters were battling the fire on Sunday, with several aircraft also being deployed, Texas Public radio reported.

Officials with the Texas A&M Forest Service said Monday that weather conditions through midweek could spell danger for several additional Texas counties.

“There is potential for large wildfires to occur [Monday] that may outpace firefighters’ suppression efforts in areas near Childress, Lubbock, Abilene, Mineral Wells, Brownwood, Midland, San Angelo, Fredericksburg, Del Rio, Laredo and Brownsville,” the agency said in a news release. “[Monday], critically to extremely dry vegetation across the landscape will support wildfire activity when exposed to critical fire weather, which includes well-above normal temperatures and increased wind speeds.”

The threat will extend beyond Monday as the same weather conditions persist.

“By Tuesday, the potential for large wildfires will escalate as critical fire weather is expected to develop over a large area of the state west of the I-35 corridor. When these critical to extreme weather conditions combine with the extremely dry vegetation across the landscape there is a possibility that large, significant wildfires will occur and may impact communities,” the statement said.

Local and state authorities have responded to 726 wildfires in March that have burned more than 164,000 statewide, the forest service said.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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Got a tip? Email Julián Aguilar at jaguilar@kera.org.You can follow Julián on Twitter @nachoaguilar.
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