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Wildfires continue northwest of San Antonio, but sea breeze storms may be on the way

Fire fighting helicopter barely visible through smoke about a widlfire in Uvalde County.jpg
Texas Forest Service
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Helicopter barely visible through smoke above a wildfire in Uvalde County

Wildfires continue northwest of San Antonio where some of the worst drought conditions in the nation exist, but there are a couple of glimmers of hope when it comes to rain before July comes to an end.

The Nethery Road Fire in Kimble County is now 80% contained after consuming 3,200 acres over the last week.

The relatively new Honey Creek Fire in Uvalde County, west of San Antonio, had burned 350 acres and was only 5% contained on Monday.

Wildfires have been on the rise in Texas during the drought. This past weekend the Texas Forest Service Service opened an airtanker firefighting base at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, quickening response times statewide.

“The airtanker’s speed is greater than that of a helicopter or single engine air tanker,” said George Martin, Texas A&M Forest Service Air Operations Branch Director. “These aircraft will be able to get anywhere in Texas in under one hour. Suppression aircraft can respond quickly, increasing the likelihood that a new ignition remains a small, manageable wildfire.”

The Texas A&M Forest Service has 36 aircraft mobilized at 17 airports around the state for wildfire response. The Austin Airtanker Base will serve as a reload station for aircraft coming and going to wildfires and is the only airport in the state setup for a very large airtanker, or DC-10.

The base is equipped to handle all aircraft in the national airtanker fleet, including those aircraft used to drop fire retardant during wildfires. The base will be manned by trained and qualified Texas A&M Forest Service, USDA Forest Service and Austin Fire Department firefighting personnel, according to a news release.

The Texas A&M Forest Service does not own any aviation resources but instead uses federal aviation contracts through the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management for all firefighting aircraft.

A long heat wave continues with temperatures ranging from 102 to 104 this week in San Antonio. Little more than 5 inches of rain has fallen at the international airport for the entire year.

The National Weather Service reports there are indications tropical easterlies will open up this Sunday which should allow for some isolated sea breeze storms to cross South Texas from the Gulf of Mexico. There's a greater chance of that coming next Wednesday, until then, more hot and dry.

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Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at brian@tpr.org and on Twitter at @TPRBrian