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Potential for wildfires grows today, later this week

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There is potential for large wildfires to occur this week that may outpace firefighter suppression efforts in areas near Childress, Lubbock, Abilene, Mineral Wells, Brownwood, Midland, San Angelo, Fredericksburg, Del Rio, Laredo and Brownsville, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.

a helicopter is silhouetted against an orange sky and drops fire retardant over Ramsey Fire

Wildfire potential increases throughout the week as weather conditions move to extreme. (Texas A&M Forest Service photo by Stuart Morris)

Extremely dry vegetation across the landscape will support wildfire activity when exposed to critical fire weather, which includes well-above-normal temperatures and increased wind speeds.

By March 29, the potential for large wildfires will escalate as critical fire weather is expected to develop over a large area of the state west of the Interstate 35 corridor. When these critical-to-extreme weather conditions combine with the extremely dry vegetation across the landscape, there is a possibility that large, significant wildfires will occur and may impact communities.

A Southern Plains Wildfire Outbreak is also possible on March 29 in the High Plains. This weather phenomenon is characterized by extreme fire weather and can be compared to the high-impact Santa Ana wildfire events that occur in southern California.  

The fire environment is likely to continue to support increased potential for large wildfires on March 30 for the Hill Country and South Texas.

Many recent wildfires have exhibited extreme fire behavior including group torching, which is the transition of fire from the ground to the canopy of trees, and spotting of embers and flammable material ahead of the active wildfire. An abundance of critically dry vegetation will continue to support wildfire activity as drought conditions intensify across the state.

“As conditions across a large portion of the state worsen, wildfires that ignite are burning more intensely and are frequently resistant to control,” said Wes Moorehead, Texas A&M Forest Service fire chief. “Unfortunately, little to no precipitation is forecast for the immediate future, and we expect the current level of wildfire activity to continue for some time.”   

Current wildfire updates

This month, state and local resources have responded to 726 wildfires that burned 164,257 acres across the state. Over the past seven days, fire resources responded to 121 wildfires that burned 35,728 acres. These included Crittenburg Complex in Coryell County that burned an estimated 33,175 acres and is 0% contained; the Eastland Complex in Eastland County that burned 54,513 acres and is 90% contained; the Das Goat Fire in Medina County that burned 1,092 acres and is 50% contained; and the Ramsey Fire in Brown County that burned 3,100 acres and is 65% contained.

Texas A&M Forest Service is monitoring the current situation closely and has positioned personnel and equipment in the areas of concern.

“State, local and federal firefighters have been extremely busy responding to increased wildfire activity,” said Rich Gray, Texas A&M Forest Service chief regional fire coordinator. “Fire resources are mobilized to areas of concern for a quick and effective response to any requests for assistance.”  

Fully staffed task forces and additional suppression equipment are staged in Alice, Amarillo, Beeville, Brownwood, Burkburnett, Childress, Edinburg, Fort Stockton, Fredericksburg, Lubbock, McGregor, Merkel, Mineral Wells, Pleasanton, San Angelo, Smithville and Victoria.

Fireline supervisors, command staff and incident commanders with advanced qualifications are strategically placed across the state to respond. Additionally, resources from 34 states have been mobilized to Texas this month to support wildfire response efforts.

Aircraft were heavily utilized over the past week to support suppression efforts on the ground, responding to multiple wildfires and dropping a total of 263,000 gallons of water and retardant to slow forward progression of fires.

Thirty-five aviation resources are currently staged in state, including three large air tankers, 15 single engine air tankers, five air attack platforms, two aerial supervision modules, three Type 1 helicopters, two Type 3 helicopters, four Blackhawks and one multi-mission aircraft.

Texas A&M Forest Service and Texas Division of Emergency Management also worked together to mobilize 12 strike teams via Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System to provide wildfire incident support.

Nine out of 10 wildfires in Texas are caused by humans. Texas A&M Forest Service encourages the public to avoid outdoor activities that cause a spark while warm, dry and windy conditions are present.

Stay wildfire aware. If a wildfire is spotted, immediately contact local authorities. A quick response can help save lives and property.

For current conditions and wildfire outlook, read the Texas Fire Potential Outlook https://bit.ly/3kemhbG.

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Fantasy of Lights Festival welcomes the arrival of the Christmas season

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Downtown Bowie shined brightly this weekend as the Fantasy of Lights Christmas Festival heralded the start of the holiday season.
“Winter Lights” Sip and Stroll With Me opened the festival Friday night with a total of 31 vendors participating in the popular festival Friday night. Moderate fall-like temperatures made it a great evening for strolling and the downtown parking was filled throughout the evening as guests went from store to store to enjoy refreshments, learn about what they had to offer and even do a bit of shopping. Local student performers also sang holiday music.
Cindy Roller, executive director for Bowie Community Development, said Sip and Stroll continues to grow and grow with each outing and those attending really seem to enjoy it no matter the time of year.

Saturday morning’s Pancakes with Santa served up some 300 meals of free pancakes at the city fire hall, followed by holiday crafts at Elf ‘N’ Magic at the library. That evening after the community Christmas tree was lit, the Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade rolled through downtown heralding the holiday season. The Bowie High School cheerleaders won the sweepstakes prize with its sparking snowflakes float.

Read about all the winners and see their photos in the mid-week Bowie News.

The dancing snowflake float from the Bowie High School cheerleaders won the sweepstakes prizes for best overall parade entry. (photo by Jordan Neal)
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Bowie Chamber seeking nominations for its top community awards

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Nominations are now being accepted for the business and volunteer awards presented by the Bowie Chamber of Commerce with a deadline of Jan. 9, 2023.
These awards will be presented at the Jan. 23 chamber banquet, which has a theme of “Denim & Diamonds.” Chamber members also are invited to decorate a table for the banquet where the best decorated will win a prize.
Public nominations are sought for the three major awards presented by the chamber: The Frances Brite Award for volunteerism; 2022 Business of the Year and 2022 Community Support Award. The board also will select a member for the membership award.
Nomination forms for the three main awards are located on the chamber webpage at bowietxchamber.org, and they can be dropped off to the office at 101 E. Pecan. Call the chamber at 872-1173 with any questions.

Read the full story in the mid-week Bowie News.

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MSU readies Dec. 10 graduation ceremony

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More than 600 students are expected to walk the stage during Midwestern State University’s commencement ceremony at 10 a.m. on Dec. 10 at Kay Yeager Coliseum in Wichita Falls.
Students graduating with the highest grade point averages from each of the six academic colleges will be honored with the President’s Medal for Excellence. Recipients will receive their medals from MSU Texas President JuliAnn Mazachek.
Graduates will hear words of encouragement from MSU Texas leaders and alumni. The December ceremony includes students who graduated in August.
The Faculty Award recipient also will be announced. This honor is given by MSU Texas faculty to a full-time faculty member for teaching excellence and service to the university. The first recipient of the Faculty Award was Arthur F. Beyer in 1977.The winner is selected by the faculty at large and kept secret until commencement.

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