Experts Predict 2014 to be Bad Year for Fires

Lack of rainfall, coupled with lots of dead vegetation due to below-freezing temps, had some experts predicting 2014 to have a bad fire season.
by Victoria Price

LUBBOCK, Tx. -- We may barely be into 2014, but experts are already bracing for a bad fire season.

Right now, West Texas has one of the highest risks in the country, second only to parts of Southern California and Arizona.

"You have those warming winds, those dry conditions, then somebody in a passing vehicle throws a cigarette out when there's high winds," says Battalion Chief Rob Keinast of the Lubbock Fire Dept. "Now, you have a very serious grass fire that very quickly can consume a lot of acreage."

We had our own Ron Roberts weigh in with weather predictions. He doesn't expect this year to be as bad as the fires of 2011. But, he says the chance is there.

"The fire risk right now in Lubbock is moderate, but we're moving very quickly to a high, high fire risk," according to Roberts.

It may seem counterintuitive, but those blasts of arctic air we've seen have actually made fire risk worse, not better. That's because it kills vegetation, leaving it susceptible to burn.

"If you look at the way we're starting January this year, we're so dry, and it doesn't help that we've had all these arctic cold fronts that dry our atmosphere out," Roberts says. "So we're looking at humidity values and dew points that are extremely low."

Needless to say, the South Plains could use some rain. The question is -- is any on the way?

"The long range models say we may not receive any precipitation in the month of January," according to Roberts.

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