Fire experts comparing Texas, Calif. cite differences in drought, winds

But fire authorities say forceful winds and a long drought would be necessary to produce a Central Texas wildfire as devastating in as the ones currently blazing in California.
“Only out in East Texas do we see this type of force and certainly nothing close to the things they have.” The Texas Panhandle occasionally has wind-driven fires, but they also are not as forceful as in California, said Logan Scherschel, an urban-interface specialist for the Texas A&M Forest Service.
Austin firefighters more frequently have to put out fast-moving grass fires on the city’s eastern half, but the Hill Country’s forested and rolling hills are similar enough to California’s mountain forests to cause some concerns, Buck said.
The types of fuels are similar,” Buck said.
“But we just fortunately don’t get that same long drought very often nor do we get the Santa Ana winds.” In Austin, greenbelts along Lake Austin and areas to the west, such as the Jester Estates neighborhood, are similar to Northern California, Buck said.
Because of recent rains, Central Texas is not in immediate threat of fires, said Melanie Karns, the hazard mitigation coordinator for Texas A&M Forest Service.
“Thankfully, this year we’ve had a lot of rain,” Karns said.
“This is the prime time to protect homes and prevent those future fires,” Scherschel said.
If Central Texas were to see a fire too large for local fire departments, the Forest Service would provide support and resources from other departments around the state, Karns said.
The Bastrop County Complex Fire, which destroyed burned 34,000 acres and 1,660 homes in Bastrop County, remains the worst fire in Texas history and a grim reminder of fire’s destruction, Karns said.

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