Presenter: Mokey McCrary
Ruben Cantu

Commission Agenda Item No. 11
Panhandle Wildfires
May 2006

I. Executive Summary: This briefing item will update the Commission on the recent Panhandle wildfires that consumed over one million acres since December 26, 2005 and the role of Department personnel and the impact to flora and fauna.

II. Discussion: During the recent Texas Panhandle wildfires, which were fueled by unrelenting high winds, Texas Game Wardens and Wildlife Biologists from the Panhandle once again were called into service to aid Texans. The wardens and biologists assisted various sheriffs' departments, fire departments, Texas Forest Service, Texas Department of Transportation and other emergency service providers with a variety of support, which included fire watch, evacuation, public warning, search, dispersing food and water, firefighting, traffic control, perimeter patrols, equipment transport and using their knowledge of the topography to guide firefighters into several different burning areas.

With regard to wildlife and habitat, smaller fires will have minimal effect; however, loss of significant amounts of nesting and brooding rearing habitat required by ground nesting birds is a major concern for the current nesting season in the big burn areas. The extent of pronghorn and deer losses is unknown at this time. The grassland and shrub areas should recover quickly if adequate rainfall occurs during the growing season; however, many of the larger trees were lost in the riparian areas and it will require years to replace them.

Significant accomplishments include, but are not limited to, personnel working 137 hours in support of fire suppression operations, evacuating 38 people who were in imminent peril and locating a deceased fire victim