Critical Fire Danger to Persist From Arizona to Texas

May 29, 2011; 5:00 AM ET
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"The powerful winds will have no trouble spreading the existing or any new wildfires..."


With several major wildfires already burning and additional hot and dry weather expected into next week, the fire situation will remain critical from Arizona to West Texas.

According to the Texas Forest Service, as of Friday, two major fires are burning across the western part of the state. These fires alone have already charred over 21,000 acres of land.

The largest of the fires located about 20 miles south of Amarillo, Tex. near the town of Canyon has already burned one home and it threatened at least 60 additional homes.

On Saturday, crews battling the blaze made progress, with 90 percent containment on the fire.

The second fire is smaller in size, but it threatens a more populated area, as it is located on the outskirts of Midland, Tex.

Thankfully firefighters have this fire 95 percent contained.

While the overall fire situation is mostly under control at the present time, additional fire development is possible through next week as hot and extremely dry conditions persist.

Winds will continue to gust between 25 and 45 mph this weekend from eastern Arizona to West Texas. The strongest winds will howl in the afternoon.

Locally higher gusts are possible, especially in the vicinity of New Mexico's higher terrain. This includes the Gila National Forest where any man-made fire activity has been completely prohibited throughout the forest.

The powerful winds will have no trouble spreading the existing or any new wildfires across the region's tinder-dry vegetation. The U.S. Drought Monitor reports that vast portions of New Mexico and Texas are currently experiencing extreme to exceptional drought conditions.

Rapid fire growth will be further aided by extremely low relative humidity and very warm afternoon temperatures through the end of the weekend.

Gusty winds and the high fire danger will then persist into Memorial Day across eastern Arizona, New Mexico, and West Texas.

The fire danger may lessen a little starting Tuesday as a surge of higher dewpoint air makes its way into western Texas and eastern New Mexico.

This slight moisture increase combined with lighter winds will help to bring fire danger levels down below critical values. However, the danger could ramp back up again late next week into next weekend.

All residents from eastern Arizona to West Texas are urged to use extreme caution when dealing with sparks or cigarette butts during the next few days.

The strong winds into Monday will do more than heighten the fire danger. Hazards for motorists will exist even when wildfires are not present.

The strength of the winds could overturn or steer semi-trucks and campers off roadways. Drivers of smaller trucks and cars will at least feel the winds tug on their vehicles.

All drivers will have to stay alert for visibility to dramatically drop in blowing dust, which could lead to chain-reaction accidents.

Residents should heed all posted warnings and burn bans. Some form of a burn ban is currently in effect for 188 of the 254 counties in Texas.

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