Central Texas Officials Warn of Dangerous Wildfire Summer Ahead

This warm, dry weather may be great for starting spring outdoor activities, but officials in Central Texas are worried that the dry conditions, on top of the rainy spring,  could signal a summer wildfire season to match the devastation of 2011, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

That summer marked the Bastrop Complex Fire, still the most destructive wildfire in Texas history, plus hundreds of wildfires along the I-35 corridor that kept firefighters hopping and homeowners on edge.

"We have a 40 to 60 percent chance of having than normal summer rain, and a 40 to 60 pecent chance of having higher than normal temperatures," said Will Bittner, a wildfire specialist with the Travis County Fire Marshal's office.  "Those combinations, along with the fact that we have had some spring rain, increase the possibility that this lush green grass will turn brown and create a fire hazard."

Much of the region is still listed as 'abnormally dry,' although last week's heavy rain pushed much of the region, at least temporarily, out of drought conditions.

In 2011, Texas had 31,000 wildfires that burned 4 million acres.

Lt. Steven Gibbon of the Austin Fire Department says the explosive growth from San Antonio through New Braunfels and San Marcos to Austin, is also an increasing worry.

"In the past, these areas were just out in the middle of nowhere," he said of rural areas which have been built up over the past decade.  "Now, a fire here would be something that a lot of people would have to worry about."

Central Texas firefighters are beginning to conduct public awareness classes about how to be safe outdoors at a time of elevated fire risk, as well as asking state and federal officials for more resources to combat a potentially dangerous wildfire summer.

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