Fire officials take no chances, as we are on day 59 without seeing any rain

Published: Dec. 10, 2021 at 9:05 PM CST
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AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - High winds are an understatement in Amarillo and across the Panhandle today.

Windy, dry conditions make for dangerous fire conditions when they break out.

In the High Plains, there are typically two fire seasons, one in the Summer and one in the Winter.

As we are now entering the Winter season, Texas A&M Forest Service say they are readying themselves for what they expect to be a fierce fire season, all pointing to a high fuel load with dry vegetation, supplemented by drought conditions and low humidity.

Fire officials were taking no chances as we are on day 59 without seeing any rain.

Texas A&M Forest Service made sure they were heavily staffed in Amarillo, but also at their offices in Lubbock and Childress.

Many out of branch resources are also here to help.

“Here in Amarillo we’ve brought in 6 Texas inter-agency fire department engines, they are type six engines and that’s just here in Amarillo, we also have another fleet in Lubbock that came in to assist, in Plainview we have three what we refer to as SEATs, which is air support and we also have a fully staffed office here with three bulldozers, a motor grader, a type 6 engine and a water tender,” said Juan Rodriguez, wildland urban interface coordinator, Texas A&M Forest Service.

Randall County Fire Department says they are usually prepared year-round for grass fires, but with today’s extreme conditions they took extra precautions.

“We have people from all around the state of Texas, they brought TIFMAS crews here, they brought a strike team and they are prepared to go anywhere in the Texas Panhandle today, for today’s weather conditions,” said Vicente Jimenez, firefighter, Randall County Fire Department.

Potter County Fire Department also made similar precautions to make sure they had people in order to respond quickly.

“A fire doubles in size every minute and so whenever you have a high wind event like this it’s possible for a couple hundred feet of fire in a bar ditch take off across a field and then it be uncontrollable within a few minutes, so it’s important that we get trucks and personnel on scene to get those fires taken care of quickly,” said Steven Denny, lieutenant, Potter County Fire Department.

Both Potter and Randall counties have both been in a burn ban due to the high fuel load and weather conditions and officials say the ban probably won’t go away anytime soon.

“Until we really get a lot more moisture and probably not until the springtime when we have new growth among all those fuel loads, we’ll probably stay in that burn ban, we’ll probably have a high likely hood that there could be wildfires,” said Denny.

Fire officials say a lot of the starts are from roadside causes such as, tire blowouts or chains hanging off of vehicles or trailers.

It is important to make sure vehicles are properly inspected before going out on the road and says it is highly advised to not partake in any activities that would lead to sparks or heat.

It is also important to make sure you have good, manicured lawns and not a lot of fuel or vegetation growing around your homes.

Rodriguez also urges to have a plan in case disaster strikes and have an evacuation route for yourself, family, pets and livestock.

“Anticipation for the rest of winter to be looking like this high fire potential across the entire High Plains, New Mexico, Texas Panhandle, even Oklahoma,” said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez says he sees this year’s fire season to be “up and going.”

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