Texas Fire Map, Update as Mesquite Heat Blaze Sparks Abilene Evacuation

Crews are fighting multiple wildfires in Texas, one of which, the Mesquite Heat fire, has led to an evacuation order in Abilene city and destroyed at least 10 homes.

Early on Thursday morning, there were eight active fires across the state, according to the Texas Wildfire Incident Response System. These are mainly in central Texas, including the Coconut Fire in Wilbarger County, the two Llano County fires—the Sandstone Mountain fire and the Slab Road fire—one at Johnson Fork, the Pope 2 Fire in Schleicher County, the Mesquite Heat fire and another in Mayfield.

The Dry Branch Fire in Hamilton County is an estimated 4,000 acres as of May 18, according to Texas A&M Forest Service, which said it was responding to the blaze.

There was also one active fire close to Amarillo, in the far north.

There were six wildfire that were contained on Thursday morning, according to the Texas Wildfire Incident Response System, including the Bowman, Great Oak, Mountain Ridge, Pope and Split fires.

Texas fire map
A map of all the wildfires currently in Texas, as of Thursday morning. Texas Wildfire Public Viewer

Fire officials said that 10 homes had been destroyed in south Taylor County as the Mesquite Heat fire burned for a second day, KTAB reported.

Homes on Braune Road from Hidden Valley Drive to Highway 277 and all of County Road 297 were being evacuated "immediately" as of 4:15 p.m. on Wednesday, the Taylor County Sheriff's Office said.

In a Facebook post at 9 p.m. local time Wednesday night, The Lone Star State Incident Management Team with Texas A&M Forest Service said: "Texas A&M Forest Service and Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System (TIFMAS) fire resources responded to several new requests for assistance on wildfires across the state today."

"There is potential for large wildfires to occur in the Western/Eastern Hill Country and Rolling Plains through Friday including areas near Childress, Vernon, Abilene, Brownwood, Lampasas, San Angelo, Ozona and Fredericksburg," it warned.

"Any new fires in grass and brush vegetation will likely be resistant to control, as underlying drought and critically to extremely dry vegetation combine with 100-degree temperatures and periods of elevated to critical fire weather."

The Llano County Judge says that although crews are making good progress on both wildfires along Highway 71, it could be the beginning of a very bad summer, FOX 29 reported.

"Some people don't realize how hazardous these conditions are, the smallest of sparks can set off a brush fire," Judge Ron Cunningham told the news channel on Wednesday.

The judge, who has lived in Llano County for much of his life, said that the conditions remind him of 2011, a particularly bad year for fires.

"The summer started out remarkably similar, with the low water conditions and the drought," Cunningham said.

Fourteen agencies are working together to put out the fires, including Texas A&M Forest Service, FOX 29 reported. Airborne resources are also assisting with suppressing the fires, the agency said.

Texas A&M Forest Service told Newsweek on Thursday that it was responding to nine active wildfires: Coconut Fire (25,000 acres, 20 percent contained), Sandstone Mountain Fire (350 acres, 50 percent contained), 2 Lit Fire (53 acres, 90 percent contained), Dry Branch Fire (4,000 acres, 35 percent contained), Slab Road Fire (57 acres, 90 percent contained), Pope 2 Fire (2,530 acres, 50 percent contained), Johnson Fork (55 acres, 80 percent contained), Mesquite Heat Fire (5,000 acres, 5 percent contained), and the Mayfield Fire (1,250 acres, 40 percent contained).

"There is potential for large wildfires to occur in the Western/Eastern Hill Country and Rolling Plains through Friday including areas near Childress, Vernon, Abilene, Brownwood, Lampasas, San Angelo, Ozona and Fredericksburg," a spokesperson said.

"Any new fires in grass and brush vegetation will likely be resistant to control, as underlying drought and critically to extremely dry vegetation combine with 100-degree temperatures and periods of elevated to critical fire weather.

"Several wildfires exhibited extreme fire behavior caused by dry live and dead vegetation, increased wind speeds and triple digit temperatures. Fire crews experienced high resistance to control with active crown fire, where the fire transitions from the surface to the canopy."

"Residents should continue to listen to warnings from local officials, stay alert and aware. Have an evacuation plan and a 'go bag' ready in the event they are asked to evacuate."

A Texas A&M Forest Service firefighter received multiple burn injuries on Tuesday night fighting a fire in Wilbarger County, according to The Lone Star State Incident Management Team with Texas A&M Forest Service, News 6 reported.

A thunderstorm near that fire caused erratic winds that fanned the fire, changing its behavior and making it harder to contain. A firefighter was taken to a hospital to receive treatment for burns from radiant heat. They were later released and no other firefighters were injured, according to a Facebook post by the management team.

Texas has two wildfire seasons. One in late summer and fall growing season, when temperatures across the Lone Star state tend to be highest, and one in the dormant season between winter and spring when vegetation is dead, dormant or extremely dry.

Wildfires have been becoming bigger and stronger in the Western United States. Recent research, mentioned in a New York Times report, has suggested that global warming, and subsequently heat and dryness, was a major reason for the increase in the size and intensity of fires.

Texas A&M Forest Service
Texas A&M Forest Service has raised the State Wildland Fire Preparedness Level to Level 5 (PL 5) due to a significant increase in fire activity across the state, potential for large fires that are resistant to control as well as the increased commitment of state and local resources to fires. Texas A&M Forest Service

05/20/22, 6:00 a.m. ET: This article was updated with comments from Texas A&M Forest Service.