Most of the weekend's wildfires across Texas are beaten back, contained and extinguished
Tens of thousands of acres of Texas land burned this weekend as windy and dry conditions blanketed parts of the state. But efforts to control if not extinguish them saw some progress on Sunday evening.
By the late afternoon, only one wildfire was classified as "Active," according to the Texas Wildfire Incident Response System at Texas A&M University. The Mesquite Heat fire in Taylor County, near Abilene, sprawled across 9,600 acres and was 25% contained.
The fire consumed dozens of buildings and homes over the past few days, and multiple communities ordered their residents to evacuate.
The Forest Service tweeted on Sunday morning that despite the size of the fire, "minimal fire behavior is expected today." It added that the Taylor County sheriff "has lifted the remaining access restrictions in the evacuated areas" but residents should expect to see a heavy police presence.
The statement also explained that "145 personnel, a Type 3 helicopter, 16 engines, a tractor plow and nine dozers" were assigned to fight and try to contain the fire.
Here’s what driving down HWY277 looks like after the #MesquiteHeatFire passed through. Ash everywhere, some dead wildlife, crews working to restore power. @KTABTV @KRBCnews @bigcountryhome pic.twitter.com/a2fRkTuLSv— Mercedez Hernandez (@SadieOnTV) May 21, 2022
The Coconut Fire in Wilbarger County — the weekend's other major incident — engulfed more than 28,000 acres before it was finally contained on Sunday afternoon. Wilbarger County is about 200 miles northwest of Dallas and near the Texas-Oklahoma border.
The Coconut and Mesquite Heat fires were just two of several incidents this weekend.
"Texas A&M Forest Service fire resources responded to 3 new wildfires that burned 262 acres across the state yesterday," a statement explained on Sunday.
As of Sunday afternoon, the Forest Service reported these incidents were contained:
- The Pope 2 Fire in Schleicher County, covering 2,530 acres.
- The Mayfield Fire in San Saba County, covering 1,295 acres.
- The Twin Starts Fire in Llano County, covering 453 acres.
- The Ghost Fire in Dickens County, covering 228 acres.
- The Coppic Fire in Brown County, covering 90 acres.
- The Speedy Fire in Gonzales County, covering 33 acres.
- The Orange 3053 Fire in Orange County, covering one acre.
The Forest Service also reported on Sunday that more than 130 counties were under burn bans.
🔥 Home Wildfire Preparedness Webinar 🔥— Texas A&M Forest Service (@TXForestService) May 21, 2022
Join experts from Texas A&M Forest Service on Tuesday, May 24 at 6pm as we discuss the current situation across the state, home preparedness, wildfire prevention and evacuation planning. Register here: https://t.co/1iGvSXYXnF pic.twitter.com/vowLf9crP8
However, the recent change in weather could improve the wildfire situation. "A pattern change to a cooler and moist environment is expected late this weekend/early this week," it explained, "and will limit the potential for wildfire activity across the state."
The wildfires and weather warnings were issued as a large swath of Texas remained under drought conditions heading into the summer months. About 25% of the state was in “exceptional” drought conditions as of mid May, according to the Texas Water Development Board’s most recent update. The percentage is the largest in eight years, according to the agency.
Nearly 80% of Texas was in some category of drought, which range from “abnormally dry” to “exceptional.” That’s compared to 44% a year ago.
#CoconutFire— Wichita West Volunteer Fire Department (@WichitaWestFire) May 19, 2022
Our crew has been released, and is back from the Coconut Fire. The fire is currently listed at 25,000 acres and 20% contained. #wwvfd #wichitawestfire #bestinthewest pic.twitter.com/fbek5PKwxV
TPR's Fernando Ortiz Jr. contributed to this report.