January 18, 2006

Texas Expects to Fight Wildfires Through April

HOUSTON -- Wildfires that have scorched some 455,000 acres in Texas are likely to keep burning until the end of April, the state's emergency management coordinator said on Wednesday.

Texas, where months of drought and unseasonably warm weather have turned prairies into tinderboxes, is expected to have little rainfall, low humidity, warm temperatures and high winds through April, said state emergency management coordinator Jack Colley.

So far, most of the 2,017 wildfires have struck rural areas in central, north and east Texas, Colley told reporters during a conference call.

"We don't want these fires to get into urban areas," he said.

Wildfires in Texas and neighboring Oklahoma have been blamed for five deaths since November 1. Dry conditions across the central and southeastern United States have led many states to ban burning to limit wildfires.

As of Wednesday, 217 new wildfires had been reported from Nebraska to Texas, according to the U.S. National Interagency Fire Center.