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'Flash Drought' Raises Wildfire Danger In Many Texas Counties

Mose Buchele/KUT
A charred tree trunk from the Bastrop County Complex Fire in 2011. That fire started during a major drought.

From Texas Standard:

Despite a relatively wet May and June, it's gotten so dry in Texas ever since that more than 100 of the state's 254 counties are under burn bans. 

Brad Smith, a wildland fire analyst with the Texas A&M Forest Service, says the number of counties under burn bans is growing daily.

"It's due to drying conditions. It's due to those 100-degree temperatures we've seen over the past couple of weeks," he says. "The vegetation out on the landscape is drying and more receptive to burn."

Under a burn ban, most outside burning like campfires and debris burning is prohibited. Smith says debris burning accounts for some 80% of fires in Texas.

During the seven days before July 15, Smith says, 31 wildfires burned 881 acres of land. During the same week in August, 21 fires consumed four times that amount of acreage, he says.

Of the fires this year, Smith says, "They are becoming larger, and they're becoming more resistant to control."

He attributes the increase in fire damage to extremely dry conditions around the state.

"We had record rainfall during the spring and early summer, basically up through June. And then in July, the rain stopped," he says. "Some people would call it a 'flash drought.'"

Smith says the heightened fire risk could last into mid-September.

Written by Shelly Brisbin.

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