AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - The dry, windy start to the weekend threatens to add to the 20,000 acres of land burned throughout the Panhandle so far this year.
The Texas A&M Forest Service now has more equipment and more personnel stationed in the Panhandle than ever before. While those are helpful assets to have during wildfire season, the Forest Service said the key player has been an aircraft.
When there is nothing but smoke for miles, the appearance of a firefighting plane is a welcomed sight for manpower on the ground. The planes, called SEATS, can drop 800 gallons of fire retardant.
Texas A&M Forest Service Regional Fire Coordinator Troy Ducheneaux said the planes were instrumental this past weekend in Childress when a range fire quickly spread to 3,000 acres. "The abilities for them to get ahead of the fire and put those retardant lines down and check that fire to keep it from progressing as far as it did, they were instrumental in helping us put that fire out."
The planes have been stationed in Amarillo for the past couple weeks, helping with fires like the one that recently threatened homes in Tascosa Hills.
Right now, they are stationed in other areas of Texas, but Ducheneaux said they can be called upon at any time if there is a need in the Panhandle. "We have them sitting in some strategic areas. They are basically a moments notice away. They can be back in place in a few hours. Once we get them inspected, they can be dropping fire retardant probably in about four hours."
Even with Tuesday's light snow, this weekend's weather still poses a wildfire danger. All eyes are on the Canadian River where hundreds will gather for the annual Sand Drag Races.
"So chances (of a fire) in that area pop up dramatically," said Ducheneaux. "If something is going to happen, more than likely it will be in that area."
Ducheneaux urges sand drag racers to be extra careful this weekend and for residents to continue being mindful of outdoor burning.