Fueled by record levels of drought-parched grasses and brush, driven by winds 30-35 mph with gusts up to 50 mph and encouraged by low humidity, wildfires have burned hundreds of thousands of acres of West Texas, according to reports by Texas Forest Service and Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel.
From April 4 - 7, the Forest Service responded to 83 fires on 309,526 acres of that region.
By April 11, some of the bigger fires were largely contained. Fire stretching across more than 100,000 acres of Stonewall, Knox and King Counties was 80 percent contained, according to Forest Service sources. A fire that burned more than 35,000 acres in Garza and Crosby counties was 90 percent contained.
Many other smaller fires, from a few acres to a few thousand, were also squelched or under control.
However, as of April 11, fires in Presidio in Brewster counties were rated zero-percent contained.
From all indications, the fire in Presidio County started on April 9, a Saturday afternoon, about 1 p.m., by someone burning trash about a 1.5 miles west of Marfa, said Jesse Schneider, AgriLife Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources in Presidio County.
"We had steady winds of over 30 mph, gusting over 50 mph, and it raced across the flats toward Fort Davis, across several ranches, narrowly escaping the Marfa airport, jumped the highway, went into some suburbs of Fort Davis, burned some houses, then went to the south side of Fort Davis and burned some more houses there," Schneider said.
The fire split at Fort Davis, one arm traveling up into the Davis Mountains, one taking a lower route.
"Both arms of the fire continued to burn houses," she said.
The Forest Service, the Texas Department of Transportation, local volunteer fire departments and city fire departments, all joined forces to fight the fire on all fronts, Schneider reported.
As of April 11, 185 counties had burn bans in place.
More information on the current Texas drought and wildfire alerts can be found on the AgriLife Extension Agricultural Drought Task Force webpage at http://agrilife.tamu.edu/drought/.