Threat of Texas Wildfires High

Dry, hot elements creating dangerous conditions

Bulldozers and airplanes have been put on alert as Texas faces an increased threat for wildfires.

The Texas Forest Service said hot weather, extremely dry vegetation and widespread drought are combining to create dangerous fire conditions through Sunday.

The agency said the threat is high for wildfires west of Interstate 35, including the Western and Southern Plains, the Trans Pecos and the Hill Country.

Parker County fire officials said Wednesday that they fear a shortage in volunteer firefighters could affect their response.

Fire Marshal Shawn Scott said that 90 percent of the county's firefighters are volunteers. The economy is playing a major role in the shortage of volunteers, he said.

"'Do I work or do I volunteer?' Those kinds of things come into play, so any of those instances -- primarily [the] economy right now -- is the driving factor," he said. "'Do I work and put food on the table for the family, or do I firefight?'"

Only four of the 18 fire stations in Parker County have paid employees. The county is working with other stations with paid staff to help alleviate its shortages.

Texas Forest Service firefighters this year have battled more than 600 blazes burning 70,000 acres. Firefighters fought less than 150 fires that blackened about 5,200 acres a year ago.

Crews on Monday contained a 27-acre wildfire in a small border town near Laredo, but not before it destroyed four homes and damaged several others. No injuries were reported in the fire in El Ceniz.

NBC DFW's Amanda Fitzpatrick contributed to this report.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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