From the Ground Up - Wildfires

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

Changes in land use across the state combined a new drought of record helped insure that 2011 will go down as the worst year for wildfires in recorded Texas history.

“We’ve seen land not just go out of grazing, but we’ve seen land go out of row cropping and farming and gone into laying fallow which it doesn’t do. It now grows more grass and fuels and brush, and when that happens, you’ve got a real land use change and you’ve got more fuel out there. We had a lot of rain in 2010. Late 2010 we produced a lot of grass and a lot of fuel and then it quit, and the drought hit and that’s what really created the perfect storm this year. What made it so different was land use changes, plus the rain, then a drought, and then all you needed was a spark.”

Tom Boggus is the director of the Texas Forest Service, and says one of his agency’s primary responsibilities is to support and help expand the capacities of volunteer fire departments across the state.

“That’s our first defense in emergency response and especially for wildfires and they have done a yeoman’s task, a hero’s task, this year in this drought they have just literally run the tires off their trucks, and engines, and people. They have just run and run and run. We’ve had over 3.9 million acres destroyed by wildfires this year and over 30,000 wildfires, 30,000 wildfires, and those volunteers have been on every one of them.”

When you combine the economic impact of the drought on agriculture with the devastation left behind by wildfires this year, the cost to Texas will be billions of dollars.

“It’s 2906 homes that have been destroyed this year by wildfire, 2906 families that have been impacted. They don’t get to go home and sleep in their bed at night because it was destroyed by wild fire. But the story that you don’t hear that I like to tell is there’s been 38, 905 homes saved. If you haven’t contributed to your volunteer fire department lately, you need to, because they are saving Texas literally, day in and day out.”

I’m Shel Winkley, looking at Brazos Valley agriculture From The Ground Up.

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