Drought conditions coupled with wind gusts ranging from 24 mph to 50 mph fueled a grass fire east of Olton along Highway 70, Saturday afternoon. The relative humidity was 14 percent, according to the West Texas Mesonet. The fire was sparked by a hot exhaust pipe on a burr truck at Ag Producers Co-op Gin, according to gin manager Chris Williams.
Volunteer fire departments from Olton, Springlake-Earth and Halfway worked together to stifle the blaze. The Olton Police Department, Texas Department of Public Safety and the Nazareth's Sheriff's department assisted as well, managing traffic as smoke billowed across the highway at times reducing visibility.
A Red Flag Warning was issued for the extreme southwestern Panhandle and western and central South Plains, including Olton, while elevated fire weather conditions on the Rolling Plains persisted, according to the NOAA National Weather Service. With winds forecast throughout the week, conditions are expected to continue.
The fire was contained and Williams reports no damage was caused to the gin or the cotton remaining on the gin yard.
Abnormal dryness or drought are currently affecting approximately 17,228,000 people in Texas, which is about 69 percent of the state's population, according to the National Integrated Drought Information System website, https://www.drought.gov/drought/states/texas.