Despite the rivalry between the Lone Star State and California, a crisis in the Golden State has hundreds of Texans heading westward. Gov. Greg Abbott has deployed at least 200 firefighters and some 50 specialized fire vehicles to the West Coast, as historic wildfires sweep parts of Northern and Southern California.
In the Camp Fire in Northern California’s Butte County, there are 48 confirmed fatalities, making it the deadliest wildfire in the state’s history. Over 7,000 homes have also been lost. In Los Angeles and Ventura counties, the Woolsey and Hill fires caused two fatalities and burned 435 structures, and 57,000 people are still in danger.
Kari Hines is a wildland and urban interface specialist with the Texas A&M Forest Service. She says Texas firefighters going to California will face different weather patterns and terrain than they’re use to.
“The Santa Ana winds, of course. [Also,] the topography is a little different than it is here in Texas, as well as the vegetation,” Hines says.
Hines says firefighters will need to learn as they go.
This week’s deadly fires in California have almost certainly been made worse by the ongoing drought in that state, Hines says. And large populations in areas facing drought increases the risk of fire.
The question of whether Texas could experience fires like those happening in California is now not only an academic one. Wildfires in the Panhandle and in Central and East Texas have also come during droughts.
“We absolutely do experience high wildfire danger days,” Hines says.
She says individuals can reduce their own fire danger. These include keeping vegetation trimmed and away from structures, and being careful when using fire themselves.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.