Jul 20, 2022 - News

Texas is catching fire as heat wave continues

Tweet about wildfires across Texas
Screenshot via @TXForestService/Twitter

Wildfires are cropping up across Texas as temperatures skyrocket amid parched conditions.

Driving the news: Firefighters labored in excruciating heat this week to extinguish conflagrations in Smithville and in northern Williamson County.

  • The Austin Airtanker Base has opened at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to serve as a reload station for aircraft coming and going to wildfires — it's the only airport in the state set up for a Very Large Airtanker, or DC-10.
  • At least 212 of Texas' 254 counties have enacted burn bans.

Why it matters: Summers are becoming deadlier as a changing climate blankets millions in heat waves whose public health consequences were until recently not fully understood.

  • Scientists warn global warming, along with climate-change driven droughts, is fueling the risk of more frequent and intense fires.
  • Flashback: A 2019 Statesman investigative series — Hostage to Heat — uncovered the relationship between electricity affordability and heat deaths, focusing on Texans who were found dead after refusing to run their air conditioning units because they feared high bills.

Between the lines: Tony Fracasso, a senior branch forecaster for the NWS Weather Prediction Center, told Bloomberg that Texas "is basically ground zero for the heat," as the state's power grid operator asks people to conserve electricity in the searing heat.

Scary stat du jour: Austin ranks fifth nationally for wildfire risk, per a recent report by business intelligence firm CoreLogic.

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