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Why have there been more wildfires in Central Texas this year?

A spokesperson with the Texas A&M Forest Service said Central Texas has had 988 wildfires that have resulted in more than 16,000 acres burned.

AUSTIN, Texas — Fire danger conditions continue this week following multiple fires in the Central Texas area over the past several days.

Those fires include a 90-acre fire in Buda, a 35-acre fire near Hornsby Bend and a 29-acre fire off of FM 969. It's a trend the state is seeing as the Texas A&M Forest Service reports that, since January, the state has seen more than 6,900 wildfires and almost 600,000 acres burned. 

Firefighters from all over the state and even some from outside the state are in Austin in the event more wildfires break out. It's part of the Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System. Teams from across the state are sent to areas with high fire risk and stay for about two or three weeks. 

Texas A&M Forest Service Lead Public Information Officer Erin O'Connor said this year has been above average for fire responses and acres burned. 

"I think most people in Texas remember 2011. That was a very busy, very devastating and impactful fire season. 2022 is shaping up to be the most significant wildfire season since 2011. It's hard to kind of compare based on numbers, but we are seeing some similarities between this year and 2011, as well as a lot of our past wild, active wildfire seasons," O'Connor said.

O'Conner said that in Central Texas there have been 988 wildfires that resulted in more than 16,000 acres burned so far this year. She said weather from the year before plays a major part in summer fire conditions.

"So like 2006, 2009 even 2018. And what all of those years had in common were La Niña conditions. So it was hot, it was dry. A drought emerged in the fall, and that's just continued to intensify through the winter, spring and now carried over into the summer," O'Connor said. "And we've just had, again, all of those hot, dry conditions, some frontal boundaries and high-pressure systems that are just helping to support wildfire activity across the state."

Because of those conditions, Texas needs help from fire crews outside the state as well. O'Connor said those teams bring bulldozers, operators, firefighters and specialized crewmembers.

"That also helps to build the capacity of Texas firefighters. So not only are they coming here and they're helping us, assisting us on that fire, but they're also working with our firefighters to build our capacity in the state as well. So it's kind of training and assisting at the same time," she said.

With the hot, dry conditions continuing for the foreseeable future, O'Connor said everyone needs to do their part to prevent wildfires. 

"Any spark, any ignition on the landscape can quickly grow into a wildfire. So we'd like to encourage everyone to just be very diligent, be very cautious with any outdoor activities, and to always check with local officials for burn bans or any other burn restrictions before you do anything outdoors," she said.

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