The record drought that is worsening with the onset of August-like temperatures is ratcheting up the wildfire danger in what has already been an unprecedented fire season in Texas.
Large fires were burning across the state Tuesday, including a 2,500-acre blaze in Palo Pinto County about 60 miles west of Fort Worth.
Fire crews across the state are confronting record high fire danger ratings and all-time lows for fuel-moisture content, said Tom Spencer, head of the Texas Forest Service's predictive services department. (Low fuel-moisture content means that vegetation is dry.)
It's adding up to a potential nightmare scenario, fire experts say.
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"It's scary for us what the late-summer conditions could look like," Spencer said. "Our winter-spring fire season has basically merged with our late-summer season.
"2011 as it stands is a record year, and it stands to be even more so. There's no relief in sight -- it's only going to get worse."
A wildfire in Arizona and New Mexico has torched more than 469,000 acres, or 732 square miles. But those numbers are dwarfed by the toll in Texas, where nearly 12,000 wildfires have consumed more than 2.9 million acres, or about 4,538 square miles, since Nov. 15.
Gov. Rick Perry renewed his proclamation of a statewide disaster Saturday and requested again that the federal government issue a disaster designation.
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