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Experts say West Texas' wildfire season is off to a strong start

With drought conditions drying out the region and tourists coming to the Big Bend for spring break, officials are urging people to keep an eye out for wildfires.

By Bárbara Anguiano

The threat of wildfires continues to mount throughout West Texas as tourists visit during spring break and drought conditions persist.

Robyn Atwood, a Fire Prevention Educator with Texas A&M’s Forest Service, believes this year’s fire season could be especially bad. According to Atwood, the West Texas fires season usually starts around May or June, however, due to persistent drought conditions fires have started earlier this year.

Marfa Public Radio’s Bárbara Anguiano spoke with Atwood and here’s a brief synopsis of their conversation.

What sparks a fire?

Atwood said so far the number of fires in 2022 has been higher than average, especially for this time of year. Recently, fire activity has picked up in the western parts of Texas, the Permian Basin and the Trans- Pecos area. 

The majority of fires are most likely caused by people.

“Ninety percent of all wildfires are due to a human-related cause,” Atwood said.

When it's dry fires are really easy to start, which is why people need to be careful. Simply parking on tall grass or starting a burn pile at the wrong time can cause wildfires, she explained. 

The best thing to do if you accidentally start a fire, Atwood said, is to try and put it out. She recommends individuals living in areas where wildfires are prevalent carry fire extinguishers in their cars. 

If a  wildfire is too big for a fire extinguisher, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Pay attention to evacuation orders.

Atwood believes it’s important to remain vigilant whenever there is an active fire in your region. Evacuation orders can come quickly so pay attention to your local news outlets or nearby police and fire departments.  

“Have a little go kit ready with everything that you think you might need, as far as medication or pet supplies. Know where the safe places are in your community that you can go to.” she continued,  “Just be alert and be aware and be ready.”

Don’t let fires get started in the first place.

Atwood said the best way that people can help prevent fires is to make sure to pay attention to the weather and to not take unnecessary risks. 

“If you know it's going to be really windy and really dry, you want to make sure that you're reducing those outdoor activities that could cause a spark,” she said. “Even if your county is not in a burn ban.”

Activities she recommends avoiding when fire danger is high is barbecuing, burning debris and parking vehicles over tall grass.

Bárbara Anguiano was a Morning Edition Host and reporter at Marfa Public Radio from 2021 to 2022.