Wildfires struck several north Texas counties

Fostered by dry conditions and high winds, wildfires struck several north Texas counties, burning thousands of acres of rangeland and destroying small communities.

But it could have been worse if not for weekend rains, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel.

In Montague County, northwest of Dallas, approximately 45,000 acres burned along with an entire small town, and three people perished in the fires.

"Mainly rangeland was burnt, but we have some rough country that was burnt as well," said Justin Hansard, AgriLife Extension agent for Montague County.

The entire population, from 150 to 200 people, of Stoneburg had to be evacuated, Hansard said.

"Houses burnt down in that vicinity; we're looking at about 25 to 30," said Hansard, who is member of the Montague County Emergency Planning Committee. "Yesterday (April 13), we had a group come together with FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), and those guys who needed something immediately, we tried to fill their needs."

In Red River County, there was some concern about a 200-acre wildfire, but weekend rains aided firefighters and the danger is over, said Lynn Golden, AgriLife Extension agent based in Clarksville, east of Paris.

The concern from about half of the county was due to timber, much of it dry because of drought conditions earlier in the year.

"We're in good shape right now. Our stock ponds are full," Golden said. "We just need some warmer weather to get the warm-season grasses going. We're still having nights in the 30s."

Palo Pinto County lost about 800 acres to wildfires, said Scott Mauney, AgriLife Extension agent. Most of it was rangeland.

More than a dozen homes were lost and many more threatened, Mauney said.

The following summaries were compiled by AgriLife Extension district reporters this week:

CENTRAL: A hard freeze set back corn, milo, oats, wheat and garden crops for most growers. High winds and no rain severely dried out soils and crops. Producers continued planting corn. Most areas received rain late in the reporting period which helped green up warm-season grasses. Producers reported feral hog damage to row crops and pastures.

COASTAL BEND: Showers provided little relief to drought conditions. High winds caused erosion to newly planted fields. The wheat harvest was under way with yields as high as15 bushels per acre. Though little moisture was present in soils to germinate seed, producers continued to plant sorghum.Cotton continues to meet crop insurance deadlines. Cattle were still being supplemented with hay and protein as forage was in very short supply. Some cattle were being sold or moved out of the region to areas with standing forage.

EAST: Most of the region had a hard freeze, causing scattered damage to vegetable and fruit crops. There were also reports of frost damage to warm-season grasses. Recent rains of up to 3 inches helped pasture conditions. However, hay supplies were short, and high winds quickly dried out pastures. Cattle were in fair to good condition. Calving season was ongoing. There were reports of disease problems in ornamental plants, vegetables and turf grass.

NORTH: High winds dried out soils, and moisture levels ranged from short to adequate. A cold front with temperatures in the 20s and 30s set grass growth back. However, peach trees showed no visible freeze damage. Most wheat was headed out and in fair to good condition, showing no significant freeze damage. There was some freeze damage noted on already planted corn. The planting of corn, sorghum and soybeans continued. Sorghum was in fair to good condition. Corn producers continued to battle feral hogs. Hundreds of acres of corn seed were rooted up by hogs. Without a remedy to feral hog problems, it may soon become unfeasible to grow corn in some areas, agents reported. Cotton was in fair condition. Cattle were in fair to good condition, and supplemental feeding continued in many areas.

PANHANDLE: The region experienced another weather roller-coaster ride, with temperatures freezing early in the week, warming to above average mid-week and then returning to near normal by week's end. Dry conditions and high winds raised the danger of wildfire. Some moisture was received, but soil levels were still rated very short to short. Producers prepared for corn planting. Russian wheat aphids and greenbugs continued to assault wheat crops already stressed by cold weather. There were some reports of freeze damage to wheat.

ROLLING PLAINS: Driven by high winds, wildfires swept across the region. Montague, Jack, Stephens, Wichita, Archer, Clay and Palo Pinto counties all had fire damage. Temperatures fluctuated from freezing to 80 degrees. Freeze damage was showing up in wheat, and most producers were requesting crop insurance adjusters to visit fields -- unless the fields were already declared "disastered" (totally lost) because of drought. Some freeze damage was evident on fruit trees. Pastures quickly began to green up after the freeze, a welcome sight as most ranchers have used up most of their hay. Stock tanks were extremely low.

SOUTH: Widespread hot, dry and windy weather resulted in very short soil moisture conditions. Wheat fields in the eastern counties quickly dried up. Some of the wheat crop was already destroyed or harvested for livestock forage. Pastures and rangeland in the northern part of the region were extremely dry again. Sorghum planting was mostly complete, and corn and potato crops continued to develop under heavy irrigation. Cabbage harvesting continued in the western counties. Onion-bulb development was very good in that area, and the crop should reach maturity and be ready to harvest in about three weeks. Spring onion harvesting was in full swing in the southern parts of the region. Supplemental feeding of livestock increased, with some light culling of cattle. Stock tank water was limited, with some tanks completely dry. Producers were having to resort to well water or windmills for their livestock.

SOUTHEAST: Winter annuals matured and were producing seed. Warm-season grasses greened up, but cool temperatures limited growth. High winds dried out soils, but rain in some counties helped. Most winter feeding livestock ceased. Livestock were doing well. Freeze damage to the corn crop was confirmed, though the total acreage affected was not yet determined. Rice planting in areas where water is provided by bayou systems was not possible due to high water salinity. Bermuda grass and bahiagrass hay fields were drought stressed and remained dormant.

SOUTH PLAINS: Cold nights and warm, dry, windy days continued. Soil moisture ranged from very short to short. Cotton producers were preparing for planting season, which should begin about May 10. Where irrigation was possible, preparations included pre-watering. Wheat was in very poor to poor condition. Preliminary assessments indicated from 30 percent to 70 percent damaged tillers in wheat fields. Pastures and ranges were in very poor to poor condition. Condition of livestock was mostly fair to good with supplemental feeding continuing.

SOUTHWEST: About 0.4 inches of rain gave some drought relief to pastures and recently planted crops. But high winds with gusts of more than 30 mph dissipated much of the moisture. The rain also helped settle dust, made some spring corn, sorghum and cotton planting possible, and greened up the area. However, high winds and near-record high temperatures in the low 90s aggravated drought conditions and increased the risk of wildfires. Forage remained in short supply. Dryland pastures, ranges and crops did not make much progress. Ranchers continued to provide heavy supplemental nutrition to their remaining livestock. The cabbage and spinach harvests were ongoing. Producers began to harvest onions in the Winter Garden region, but the market was weak. Potatoes, spring onions, spring cabbage and irrigated corn, sorghum and cotton were making good progress under heavy irrigation. Cotton planting was complete.

WEST CENTRAL: Temperatures were cool with very high winds. Rain was reported in many counties, and boosted spring green up. Some counties had a hard freeze, and fields and orchards were being inspected for damage. Small grains headed out. Irrigated crops were doing well. Many cotton producers were applying herbicides to control weeds. Others were preparing fields for forage planting. The cool temperatures slowed growth of warm-season grasses. Low stock-water tanks and ponds were of great concern to many livestock producers. Supplemental feeding of livestock continued.

TAGS: Livestock
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