Officials Seek Prayers for Rain in West Texas

Local officials in a parched Texas county have resorted to asking their constituents to pray for rain, hoping divine intervention can alleviate the severe drought gripping much of the state and fueling wildfires that have scorched large swaths of ranchland.

Commissioners in Tom Green County, where fires have seared nearly 13,000 acres this week, issued a proclamation Tuesday encouraging people to pray for rain.

"We certainly need it," said County Judge Mike Brown.

Conditions were only expected to get riper for wildfires across a larger expanse of the western half of Texas, according to a Texas Forest Service statement Wednesday.

Roman Catholic Diocese of San Angelo Bishop Michael Pfeifer is leading the 29-county diocese with prayers planned Sunday for rain. People are encouraged to pray wherever they find themselves on Sunday, according to Pfeifer. The priest has asked more than 100 churches to participate, the San Angelo Standard-Times reported.

Extremely critical fire weather conditions are likely to linger over large parts of North Texas and farther west, the Texas Forest Service said Wednesday.

A regional outbreak of wind-driven wildfires is possible Thursday, the agency said, in preparation for critical fire conditions during hot weather, gusty conditions and drought. Wednesday's temperatures in the region were expected to be in the low 90s, according to the National Weather Service.

"We recommend no burning," said Alan Craft, a spokesman for the Texas Forest Service.

A fire that's blackened more than 100,000 acres in Presidio and Jeff Davis counties was 60 percent contained Wednesday. More than two dozen homes and businesses in the Fort Davis area have burned since Saturday, according to the agency. Nobody has been hurt.

Nearly 13,000 acres have burned this week in Tom Green County, but dozens of homes about 13 miles west of San Angelo were saved, according to the Texas Forest Service. The fire was 50 percent contained Wednesday.

In all, almost 700 square miles have been charred by 81 fires to which the Texas Forest Service has responded in the past seven days, according to the Forest Service statement. More than 900 firefighters from across Texas and 33 other states have been summoned to battle the fires.

Conditions were expected to become more explosive Thursday, with the area west of a Fort Worth-Fredericksburg-Del Rio line expected to be at high risk for wildfires, according to the Forest Service.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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