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Wildfires, Burn Bans Rage Across Texas

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w8liftinglady Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jun-30-11 07:30 AM
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Wildfires, Burn Bans Rage Across Texas
http://www.texastribune.org/texas-environmental-news/en... /

Highway signs along many Texas roads flash the same dire warning: extreme wildfire danger. Burn bans and local disaster declarations are spreading across the state in an attempt to keep scorching temperatures, high winds and low precipitation from erupting into wildfires. Use our interactive map to see which parts of the state have been hardest hit.

So far this year, the Texas Forest Service and local fire departments have responded to roughly 1,500 wildfires across Texas, the damage of which spreads across 2.5 million acres. (Theyre currently fighting five uncontained fires statewide.) Local fire departments have responded to an additional 9,317 fires affecting 740,000 acres, bringing state totals for the year to approximately 11,000 fires damaging more than 3 million acres. To date, 1,339 structures have been destroyed, and fighting the fires has cost the state millions of dollars.

The leading contributor? A dearth of rain. Nearly 97 percent of the state is suffering some level of drought. Seventy percent of the state is at an exceptional drought level, the U.S. Drought Monitors highest and most severe ranking, based on widespread crop and pasture losses, and shortages of water in reservoirs, streams, and wells.

On Tuesday, Texas received a national disaster declaration from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The declaration categorized 213 counties in Texas as primary natural disaster areas due to high winds, fires, heat and loss of crops. Farmers in the counties under the USDA's natural disaster declaration qualify for low interest emergency loans from the Farm Service Agency, and have up to eight months to apply for the assistance.

Meanwhile, the Texas Forest Service is reporting that all but 19 of Texas 254 counties have enacted burn bans, the most at any given time, and that local disaster declarations are mounting with the July 4 holiday approaching.

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