AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas A&M Forest Service announced Tuesday the Wildland Fire Preparedness Level has been raised to Level 2 due to the potential threat of increased wildfire activity this week. This comes ahead of a strong Pacific storm system expected to bring conducive conditions for rapid wildfire growth.

What is the Wildland Fire Preparedness Level?

According to the Texas A&M Forest Service, Preparedness Levels are “planning assumptions dictated by fuel and weather conditions, current and expected wildfire activity and suppression resource availability.” The scale ranges from 1 to 5, with 5 being the most robust planning and implementation of resources for wildfire activity.

The planning of resources is largely focused on equipment and personnel. Officials will analyze conditions pertaining to weather, drought, ongoing fires, etc., and use that information to stage resources in the most vulnerable areas ahead of the increased wildfire threat. Personnel includes local and federal firefighters, law enforcement, emergency managers, out-of-state mutual aid and more. Equipment includes ground vehicles and air support.

Has Texas ever reached Level 5 wildfire preparedness?

Yes, most recently, May 19, 2022. On this day, the governor announced over 500 personnel (200 from out-of-state) were working nine active fires that had burned +10,000 acres, including the Sandstone Mountain Fire that was burning in Llano County.

IN DEPTH: At Level 5, the forest service determines “all fire-qualified resources become available for response,” with the risk of resources being stretched thin or depleted with ongoing wildfire activity.

What does Level 2 mean for this week?

The Texas A&M Forest Service released a statement Tuesday outlining their plan for best wildland fire preparedness ahead of this week’s Pacific storm. Their staging includes:

  • Deploying one large air tanker, seven single-engine air tankers, one air attack platform and one aerial supervision module
  • Opening the Abilene Airtanker Base in addition to single-engine air tanker bases in Alpine and Alice, Texas
  • Additional suppression equipment and personnel positioned in the Texas Panhandle and West Texas region, including fireline supervisors, command staff and incident commanders with advanced qualifications

Current wildfire risk

Below is the wildfire risk for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. As depicted, the highest wildfire risk (red) includes most of the Big Bend, Permian Basin, West Texas region midweek.

Current 2023 wildfire activity

As of Feb. 28, local and federal firefighters have responded to 444 wildfires in the state of Texas, burning 12,845 acres since Jan. 1.

More information and resources

For a closer look at this week’s wildfire danger, click here.

For more on this week’s wildfire preparedness, click here.

For a look at current burn bans across the state, click here.