North Texas Faces Fierce Fire Danger

Thursday, Jan 30, 2014  |  Updated 12:42 PM CDT
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Ranchers are battling dry and windy conditions to keep fires from spreading through their fields.

Jeff Smith, NBC 5

Ranchers are battling dry and windy conditions to keep fires from spreading through their fields.

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North Texas Faces Fierce Fire Danger

Dry, windy conditions in the North Texas area are priming the possibility of "explosive fire growth potential," according to warnings from the National Weather Service.
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Dry, windy conditions in the North Texas area are priming the possibility of "explosive fire growth potential," according to warnings from the National Weather Service.

A red flag warning is in effect from noon Thursday through 7 p.m. for the areas from Mineral Wells to Montague County.

The warning from the NWS said, "extreme fire weather conditions are either occurring now or will shortly. A combination of strong winds, low relative humidity, and dry vegetation will create explosive fire growth potential."

Rural areas west of the Metroplex are a major concern as a long-standing drought has reduced wild grasses to feel almost like hay. If a fire begins in these areas, fire crews could have significant challenges trying to control the blaze.

The Forest Service has dispatched firefighters to Granbury to be able to quickly respond to any fires that break out.

And in rural Parker County, ranchers spent Thursday morning doing everything they could to protect their land.

Bill McElroy manages 9,000 acres of land in Aledo. The lifelong rancher has seen his fair share of brush fires over the years, and says in these conditions it’s a constant battle to stop a small spark from igniting into a devastating blaze.

“As dry as that grass is, it’s dead, there’s nothing green underneath it. When it gets started, it goes and it’s really hard to stop,” he said.

McElroy spent Thursday morning filling up his three water tanks -- the rancher owns two 300 gallon tanks and one 1000 gallon tank.

He says his livelihood depends on being able to knock down a fire quickly under these dry conditions.

“What little grass is there, when a fire gets started, especially with the little rain we’ve had, it takes forage away from the animals,” McElroy said. “With this high wind, when a fire gets started, it just takes off.”

A carelessly tossed cigarette, he says, or even a few sparks from a car is all it takes to turn a small fire into a massive one.

Even within the Metroplex, the wind could cause real dangers. A wind advisory has been issued for nearly the entire DFW viewing area from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday.

This advisory warns of sustained winds of 20 to 30 mph with gusts up to 40 mph.

NBC 5's Greg Janda and Jeff Smith contributed to this story.

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