Governor Greg Abbott has declared the activation of the Austin Airtanker Base at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, directing the Texas A&M Forest Service through the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM). This move aims to enhance wildfire suppression efforts across the state, particularly in anticipation of the upcoming holiday weekend.
In his statement, Governor Abbott emphasized the importance of the Austin Airtanker Base in supporting firefighters and emergency response personnel statewide to mitigate the impact of wildfires. The activation is a proactive measure ahead of the forecasted triple-digit heat during the Labor Day weekend. The governor urged Texans to remain vigilant regarding weather conditions and to avoid activities that could inadvertently spark or fuel fires.
The Austin Airtanker Base’s activation is expected to result in quicker response times and improved cost efficiency in addressing wildfires throughout Texas. Functioning as a reload station for aircraft engaged in wildfire response, the base will complement the existing Airtanker Base in Abilene.
Notably, the Austin Airtanker Base is uniquely equipped to accommodate Very Large Airtankers, including DC-10 aircraft. This facility is designed to handle all types of aircraft in the national airtanker fleet, facilitating the deployment of fire retardant during wildfire operations. Trained personnel from the Texas A&M Forest Service, USDA Forest Service, and Austin Fire Department will staff the base.
In tandem with this activation, Governor Abbott expanded the state’s wildfire disaster declaration to encompass ten additional counties affected by wildfire activity or fire weather conditions. These counties include Collin, Delta, Dickens, Fisher, Hopkins, Kinney, Lamar, Roberts, Sutton, and Wood. The declaration now covers a total of 216 counties, with the possibility of additional inclusions based on evolving conditions.
The Texas A&M Forest Service reports that hot and dry conditions are likely to elevate the risk of wildfire activity through the Labor Day weekend, with over 98% of the state experiencing some level of drought or abnormal drying.
Since June 28, the Texas A&M Forest Service and local fire departments have responded to over 2,125 wildfires, encompassing more than 89,700 acres. The statewide response effort involves over 690 firefighters from the Texas A&M Forest Service and the Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System, in addition to significant resources deployed, including out-of-state firefighters, fire engines, bulldozers, firefighting aircraft, helicopters, and various support packages.
The Wildland Fire Preparedness Level remains at Preparedness Level 4, indicating heightened readiness due to prevailing fuel and weather conditions, ongoing and anticipated wildfire activity, regional preparedness levels, and the availability of fire-suppression resources in the state.
Texans are urged to exercise caution, limit activities that could pose fire risks, create emergency plans, heed official warnings, and maintain easy access to emergency supplies. Valuable wildfire tips and safety information can be found on TexasReady.gov and tfsweb.tamu.edu.