The totals change every day as new fires break out, more acres are burned and more homes, livestock and lives are threatened by wildfires that have ravaged Texas and other areas of the Southwest for most of the last year.

To date, the Texas Forest Service reports some 3.75 million acres have burned since last Nov. 15. “We’ve had 21,915 fires, 2,649 homes lost and 2,652 other structures lost,” says April Saginor, communications specialist with the Texas Forest Service.

Saginor says wildfires during that period have claimed 10 lives, including six civilians and four firefighters.

“We don’t keep good records on livestock losses or economic damage estimates,” she says.

Carmen M. Fenton, Director of Public Affairs for Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association says their best estimates indicate wildfires have resulted in more than $99 million in agricultural financial losses.

“More than 5,800 miles of fences have been lost,” Fenton says.

And new fires pop up daily, the Sept. 13 report indicated that the Texas Forest Service responded to 10 new fires for 179 acres on Sept. 12. “In the past seven days Texas Forest Service has responded to 127 fires for 9,205 acres,” the report says.

“Assessment crews continue to survey the damage of numerous fires that occurred across central and east Texas during the past week. It is currently estimated that 1,939 homes have been destroyed since Labor Day weekend.”

Multiple resources have been called on to battle these blazes. The Forest Service says aviation resources also were critical in fighting the recent outbreak of fires.

“Since Labor Day weekend, aircraft have flown more than 1,800 hours and dropped more than 5.5 million gallons of water and retardant. Six heavy air tankers, three water scoopers, 15 single-engine air tankers, four C-130 MAFFS air tankers, 13 helicopters and 17 air attack aircraft and lead planes are being utilized,” says Forest Service sources.

“Eleven Texas Army National Guard Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters from San Antonio, Austin and Grand Prairie have been crucial in the fight as well.”

The prolonged drought makes wildfires throughout the region a high probability.

The latest drought monitor shows 95 percent of the state in extreme drought, with 81 percent in exceptional drought (the highest category). Seasonal outlooks continue to indicate drying throughout the fall, so the drought is expected to worsen.

Latest reports also indicated that 250 of the 254 Texas counties are reporting burn bans.  Daily detailed fire information can be found at inciweb.org.

rsmith@farmpress.com