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2011 on track to be the worst year for wildfires in Texas history
April 25, 2011 9:42 AM   Subscribe

Texas is burning. Despite it being only April, due to severe drought conditions, over 1.8 million acres have already burned throughout the state, which could soon surpass the two million acre record set in 2006. Here are the 10 largest current wildfires as seen from orbit.

Firefighters from 34 states are now in Texas helping to fighting blazes that are burning across the state from border to border. For perspective, the total burn area so far is almost as big as Rhode Island.

If you or your family live near an affected area, the Texas Forest Service site has a wildfire action plan available for download targeted specifically to homeowners hoping to protect their property and be prepared to evacuate at a moment's notice. A directory of statewide fire departments can be found here.

Meanwhile, Texas Governor Rick Perry responded Friday by issuing a proclamation for three days of prayer for rain during Easter weekend.

If you'd like to help, donations are being taken at Texasfirefighter.org.
posted by Unicorn on the cob (53 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Clearly god hates Texas. Looking forward to Pat Robertson's statement on the matter.
posted by chasing at 9:44 AM on April 25, 2011 [16 favorites]


So, if the prayer doesn't work, does this mean God is displeased with Texas and/or America?
posted by oddman at 9:44 AM on April 25, 2011


Lesson learned: obvious joke is obvious.
posted by oddman at 9:45 AM on April 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Texas Governor Rick Perry responded Friday by issuing a proclamation for three days of prayer for rain during Easter weekend.

In a rational society, he would be impeached by now.
posted by DU at 9:45 AM on April 25, 2011 [33 favorites]


Clearly god hates Texas. Looking forward to Pat Robertson's statement on the matter.

I hope he does say something like that, and loses a lot of followers in the process.
posted by jonmc at 9:45 AM on April 25, 2011


Poor folks in Texas. Those Federal funds don't look so bad now, eh, Governor Perry?
posted by frecklefaerie at 9:46 AM on April 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


(and I hope these fires stop soon)
posted by jonmc at 9:46 AM on April 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


"god" helps those who help themselves.

Perry is a imbecile
posted by edgeways at 9:52 AM on April 25, 2011


For the curious, like me, that would appear to be about 1% of the total area of Texas.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:57 AM on April 25, 2011


And a bit farther north in Oklahoma and Arkansas, we've had over 8 inches of rain in the last few days and are having serious problems with flooding. It's put an end to the drought talk and burn bans, at least for a while. Too bad the Illinois river is over 20 feet above its normal level.
posted by wierdo at 9:58 AM on April 25, 2011


Perry is actually somewhat reviled by those on the right. He is a "Texas moderate", now that the Democrats are all dead.

He is also an incredibly cynical panderer. The prayer thing plays very well with Texas believers. Among those who don't believe, they figure what the hell, it can't hurt. But you can't come out and say that, because it would be politically stupid.

Perry is a typical politico. He rails against the Federal Government and Big Government, then bitches publicly about it when the government won't step in and help or hasn't helped enough. This plays well with a population that sees no hypocrisy at all in this, because face it, they spent their lives perfecting their cognitive dissonance tolerance mechanism through faith.
posted by Xoebe at 10:00 AM on April 25, 2011 [13 favorites]


Governor Perry, I'd like to tell you a very old story.

There was a torrential rainstorm, the worst in years, and everyone in town hurried to evacuate before the flood waters rose. All except for one man, who stayed in his home and said, "I don't need to run away. God will save me from the flood."

The rains kept coming, and the roads were nearly washed out, but two men drove by his house in a great big truck and called out for him to get in. The man said, "No, thanks. God will save me."

The flood waters rose, and the man had to go to the second floor of his house. A woman paddled past his window in a rowboat, and asked him if he wanted to get in the boat. The man said, "No, thanks. God will save me."

The waters got even higher, and the man climbed up onto his roof. Just then, a helicopter came buzzing overhead, and a rope ladder dropped down. A voice called out on a bullhorn, "Climb the rope and get in!" The man said, "No, thanks. God will save me."

The rain fell, and the water rose, and the man was swept off of his roof into the swirling torrent. He struggled with all his might, but eventually he couldn't fight any longer, and he drowned.

The next thing the man knew, he was in Heaven, standing by the Pearly Gates, and he was angry. He stormed in and demanded to talk to God. He said, "God! I trusted you to save me from the flood, but you let me drown! How could you do that to me?"

And God said, "What are you talking about? I sent you a truck, a rowboat, a helicopter..."
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:05 AM on April 25, 2011 [9 favorites]


#18 was particularly eerie, when I realized it wasn't "before during winter", but an "after -- charred" image.
posted by Phredward at 10:06 AM on April 25, 2011


Actually the worst part is that after the request for prayer, we've started getting rain, some of it torrential and hail-filled, in some of the affected areas. Right now I'm pretty worried that my vegetable garden is drowning and being pounded to pieces by rain.

Because God loves us! And sometimes he shows us by withholding rain and then beating us up with it when we ask for relief.
posted by emjaybee at 10:11 AM on April 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Perhaps this is a plan to stop illegals from crossing over into Texas?

It is a disaster for manuy who have lost homes, and so I don't want to make fun, and at the same time reminded of LBJ, no paragon of virtue, but a man able to rise above convention of his state and time and make a push for civil rights for blacks, and, at the same time, astute enough politically to immediately say that "there goes the Democratic South" as a sure vote for the Democrats.
posted by Postroad at 10:19 AM on April 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


How about we all put aside our ideological and religious differences and put out the fires?
We can all win this way.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 10:19 AM on April 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


The Houston area is seeing the driest spring season since the 1850s. Some meteorologists predict there won't be much moisture at all until the tropical storm season starts blowing.

The drought just isn't causing fire hazards, but will probably devastate Texas' agriculture this year. I don't know about proclamations for prayer, but I hope the state government listens to experts and formulates a sensible policy to balance wet years with dry years.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:21 AM on April 25, 2011


Poor Texas. As someone who also lives in a wildfire-prone state, you have my deepest sympathies. (I believe California's drought has been officially declared over, but this winter's rain and snowfall also mean a lot more vegetation growing, which might mean a hell of a fire season. We got off pretty lightly last year; we'll see what happens this year.)
posted by rtha at 10:33 AM on April 25, 2011


Meanwhile, just a few states north, it's been raining continuously for 4 days... with 4-10 inches of rain since Thursday, depending on your exact locale.

Lakes are flooding, people are being evacuated, and my local NPR station just reported a herd of cattle getting swept away by a raging creek. My garden is getting destroyed, like emjaybees, and my backyard looks like soup.

An hour ago my partner stopped home for ten minutes to make a sandwich, sarcastically said "At least global warming isn't real," and then headed off to his second job.

America.
posted by crackingdes at 10:39 AM on April 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


As a voluteer Texas firefighter married to someone who works for the water department (revenues are way up!) this drought situation is just loaded with irony.
posted by Standeck at 10:41 AM on April 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Unicorn on the cob: Here are the 10 largest current wildfires as seen from orbit.

And hey, Mexico is also on fire.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:43 AM on April 25, 2011


I moved to Austin at the end of 2007 and only one of the three years I've been here hasn't been a drought year. I know that's not a significant sample, but I'm beginning to think drought is the new normal in Central Texas.
posted by immlass at 10:44 AM on April 25, 2011


Firefighters from 34 states are now in Texas

So, Texas is going to reimburse those other 33 states for the expenses involved in sending their firefighters to deal with a Texas problem, right? I mean, Texas wouldn't want a free ride. The communists would win. Quite possibly the terrorists as well.
posted by cereselle at 10:47 AM on April 25, 2011 [8 favorites]


I live near several of the fires. I don't have anything to add, except that there have been several days when the smoke drifted in like dark, stinky fog; which is a really eerie, unsettling experience.

I have the things I absolutely must save all packed up and ready to go.
posted by byanyothername at 10:47 AM on April 25, 2011


I think a lot of people owe Bush an apology. If we'd followed his example and cleared brush in Texas instead of, y'know, "working", this could all have been avoided.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:50 AM on April 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


drought is the new normal in Central Texas.

History of drought in Texas

*The Dust Bowl: 1934, 1936, and 1939-40
*The 1950s Drought: ~1950-57
*The 1987-89 Drought
posted by stbalbach at 10:55 AM on April 25, 2011


Cereselle, Perry has asked President Obama for a major disaster declaration to help pay for the almost $70 million in estimated damages - I expect that'd also be put towards the out-of-state firefighters' expenses as well.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 10:55 AM on April 25, 2011


So, Texas is going to reimburse those other 33 states for the expenses involved in sending their firefighters to deal with a Texas problem, right? I mean, Texas wouldn't want a free ride. The communists would win. Quite possibly the terrorists as well.

I used to fight forest fires.

The way it works is that the Federal government, through one of several agencies, will negotiate with one of several agencies to pay fire crews and material costs for a given fire. These are usually highly subsidized by the feds, but yeah, the state will at a minimum pay for its own crews - and be reimbursed for sending its crews out some other time.

Also - lots and lots of firefighters aren't state workers per se - they work for a company that has a contract with one of the aforementioned agencies with one or more states (or the feds) for some level of service and manpower commitment (hand crews, smokejumpers, water crew, etc). Point is, the fact that a crew is from Utah might just mean that the billing office is in Utah, but the actual people are from all over the US.

It's good work - I recommend it.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:57 AM on April 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


It's dry as hell and the wind isn't helping anything. This is usually the prettiest season with fields and highway medians full of wildflowers-- but we barely had any this year. The wind is awful. Nonstop. I live north of Houston (The Woodlands) and work in town and between the roar of the wind in the trees and the wind-tunnel effect of the close-together buildings, it's bad enough; I can only imagine how horrible it must be for the firefighters out in the open.

My mom and I were saying yesterday how we were looking forward to the tropical storm/hurricane season, because at least that will mean we might get some rain. How messed up is that?!
posted by jschu at 10:57 AM on April 25, 2011


jschu: " ... This is usually the prettiest season with fields and highway medians full of wildflowers-- but we barely had any this year. ... "

Yeah, a really sweet part of living here is the spring beauty, almost nothing this year, was hopeful yesterday as I had to drive a short while, but almost no color to be seen, what few wildflowers are to be seen are dried up.
posted by dancestoblue at 11:02 AM on April 25, 2011


Perry has asked President Obama for .. $70 million

Texas to Washington: Bail us out from todays emergency, so we can get back to the every day business of cutting government and taxes and living self sufficiently.
posted by stbalbach at 11:08 AM on April 25, 2011 [9 favorites]


There were fires just west of where I live, and the spring pollen + smoke was wreaking havoc on my sinuses. Even with a loratadine I was sneezing up and down the street when walking the new dog.

At least the recent storms are helping with the fires around here, though now we have to watch for tornadoes. Fucking hell.

And fuck Rick Perry. Just cause.

(Anybody up for a "we survived the fires & storms" meetup in Fort Worth after this is all over?)
posted by kmz at 11:19 AM on April 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is Texas so the answer is obvious: let trees carry concealed firearms.
posted by tommasz at 11:35 AM on April 25, 2011 [10 favorites]


My brother in Tulsa was telling me this massive rainstorm they've had this whole weekend has been the first significant rainfall since the February snowstorm that was the biggest in the history of the state -- 2 feet in Tulsa, over 4 feet to the east.

Since then, barely a drop.
posted by dw at 11:38 AM on April 25, 2011


I'm no fan of Rick Perry, but maybe we could cut the Texas jokes until after the current ongoing crisis has passed? I know that there's something about wildfires that makes it damn near impossible for MeFites to resist cracking wise at the expense of the regions effected (particularly because FPPs on the topic occasionally give focus to the most outlandish elements of the populations there), but out-of-control fire is a major disaster, and the lack of empathy or decorum in these threads really doesn't reflect well on us as a site.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 11:45 AM on April 25, 2011 [12 favorites]


These fires - any near Crawford?
posted by Cranberry at 11:52 AM on April 25, 2011


Though not immune to the temptation to take shots at Texas, fires are bigger than politics and I wouldn't wish them on my worst enemy. Here's hoping for some relief for everyone affected. I've been through a major fire and it's terrifying. Plus it hurts a lot more than folks with whose ideology we might take exception.
posted by kinnakeet at 11:56 AM on April 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Parasite Unseen, I get what you're saying; my brother and his wife lost everything (even the refrigerator melted) in one of the wildfires about six years ago. And they still live out there, and my nephew is a volunteer firefighter. I am fortunate not to have been close to any fires this year, but I have been in the past.

All the same, fuck Rick Perry. Because the anti-infrastructure, anti-environment, anti-science stance of his party has contributed, in many ways, to the devastation of these fires. His crass posturing for days of prayer to bring rain while at the same time his party proposes slashing volunteer firefighter budgets should earn him and those who vote like him the scorn of every decent person.
posted by emjaybee at 11:58 AM on April 25, 2011 [16 favorites]


The mountains near my hometown in southern New Mexico currently have a wildfire burning on them, and my mother told me last night it hasn't rained there in 7 months.

Meanwhile, here in "dry" eastern Washington, we have only had one day over 60 degrees so far this year and so little sunshine due to the amount of rain (and snow! We have snow forecast for tonight!) that everyone is complaining about how dark and wet it is.

Short term weather is hard to project into long-term trends, but right now it all feels pretty fucked up.
posted by hippybear at 12:01 PM on April 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Far West Texas got cut off from that satellite photo, but we've been having fires as well. This shot of our region was posted on April 14 at Alpine Daily Planet, my favorite local news source. The editor has also been giving daily (lack of) rainfall reports:

In the past 211 days in the three-county Big Bend region, it has rained once. That was 0.01 inches on Oct. 23.

The last truly appreciable rain was 0.11 inches on Sept. 24.

A total of 0.40 inches were reported on Sept. 23.
So, Sept. 23-24 was the last time we had two consecutive days of precipitation.


The drought, combined with high winds, have really fucked shit up.
posted by battleshipkropotkin at 12:11 PM on April 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Point is, the fact that a crew is from Utah might just mean that the billing office is in Utah, but the actual people are from all over the US.

Wow, I learned something new today. Thanks, Pogo_fuzzybutt!
posted by cereselle at 12:17 PM on April 25, 2011


Here in the Panhandle the fires are mainly grass fires, which burn out quickly. My smallish town (Amarillo, pop 190k or so) recently lost 100+ homes in the outlying areas due to grass fires a few weeks ago. Not nearly as dramatic as the longer burning forest fires, but bad nevertheless.

High wind and dry weather make for a nasty fire.

I'm not praying for rain, but I'm sure hoping for it.
posted by sotonohito at 12:51 PM on April 25, 2011


Postroad: ... at the same time reminded of LBJ, no paragon of virtue, but a man able to rise above convention of his state and time and make a push for civil rights for blacks, and, at the same time, astute enough politically to immediately say that "there goes the Democratic South" as a sure vote for the Democrats.
I know it's already a tangent to this thread, but I feel this anecdote would be well-suited to the ongoing Obama/Guantanamo Files thread, when people mention how Obama can't do ___ or ___ because it would waste his political capital.
posted by hincandenza at 1:00 PM on April 25, 2011


There have been numerous injuries and two Line of Duty Deaths related to the fires thus far.

RIP FFs Gregory Simmons and Elias Jaquez.
posted by rollbiz at 1:07 PM on April 25, 2011


Is Texas on Fire?

Made by my friend and former colleague, Kris, a doctoral student doing fire research at the University of Texas at Austin. He's been tweeting a fair amount about the fires as @koverholt, and the research group was recently featured on KXAN for their small-scale grass fire experiments.
posted by malthas at 1:13 PM on April 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Dear Rick Perry's Mom: Condoms work better than prayer.
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:42 PM on April 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Any fire ecologists in the house? I'm curious about the historical fire rotation for these areas and how the grassland composition (and fire suppression policies) have influenced the recent fire history. Did grazing, land use practices, invasive species, hydrology changes, etc. contribute to the increased severity of this fire?
posted by dialetheia at 3:53 PM on April 25, 2011


Quonsar II, as far as I know, nope - and his home is about 2 miles from my office, although Cranberry seems more intent on worrying about the welfare of his ranch property (though he doesn't live there full-time, obviously). In other words, the central area of Dallas proper would have to be on fire, and the current fire line is about 70 miles west of Fort Worth.

As has already been pointed out upthread, wildfires can't selectively destroy the property, livelihood and families of those whose ideals others despise, nor does joking about the situation ease the suffering of innocent people who have lost literally everything. That said, exposing a broader audience to Perry's particular ideologies and practices as this state's governor might help them form a more educated opinion of him should his (currently rumored) plan to get GOP backing as a presidential candidate in 2012 come to fruition.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 4:45 PM on April 25, 2011


I know it's already a tangent to this thread, but I feel this anecdote would be well-suited to the ongoing Obama/Guantanamo Files thread, when people mention how Obama can't do ___ or ___ because it would waste his political capital.

Unsaid was the fact that if Democrats didn't pass civil rights they wouldn't be competitive anywhere else ever again. It was about giving up parts of the deep south to maintain political viability in the swing states and trying to hold a viable political coalition.
posted by humanfont at 5:50 PM on April 25, 2011


Here's an information fact that dose'nt add to ones knowledge of the way ones views the world. A majority of the smoke from any major wildfire ocuring in the United States is caught up in the jet stream and carried to fall back to land in the large country of Greenland, just to be covered and trapped with the next year annual snowfall. this layer of stuff will be trapped for centuries, only visible to the human eye when portions of the Greenland Glacier breaks off and becomes glaciers.
posted by taxpayer at 6:11 PM on April 25, 2011


The Greenland ice sheet isn't going to last centuries. Also all that black carbon soot isn't going to help what with the change to the albedo and all.
posted by humanfont at 8:17 PM on April 25, 2011


I'm no fan of Rick Perry, but maybe we could cut the Texas jokes until after the current ongoing crisis has passed?

These aren't jokes, they're object lessons.
posted by FatherDagon at 9:44 AM on April 26, 2011


> These aren't jokes, they're object lessons.

They're lame, kneejerk and boorish, really. Pretty much every state does crazy shit, has crazy lawmakers, and is filled with crazy people. Texas just happens to be very large and populated by over 25 million people so the sample set kind of blows things out of proportion.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:46 AM on April 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


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