NASA Says Dry Winds and Grasses Are Fueling Texas Wildfires

by Taylor Cunningham
(Photo by Space Frontiers/Archive Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

According to NASA, parched grasses and dry winds are fueling the wildfires that have been racing through drought-stricken areas of Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma this month. And because the states aren’t expecting more rain until next week, officials believe the flames will continue to spread.

At a Glance

  • NASA on Monday shared that the Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma wildfires are due to dry weather and parched grasses.
  • The fires continue to spread after breaking out on March 17th.
  • At least three first responders have died while responding to the flames.
  • The states will continue to battle fires as no rain is expected until next week.

Texas Wildfires to Continue as a Large Portion of Texas Sees Extreme Drought Conditions

Texas alone has seen close to 180 wildfires, and the flames have burned over 108,000 acres. And just west of Dallas, the Eastland Complex has destroyed more than 85 square miles.

NASA’s GOES-East weather satellite has been busy monitoring the smoke coming from two of the affected states since the fires broke out. And earlier this week, the agency posted an update about the situation.

“As evening approached yesterday, the #GOESEast monitored the smoke from numerous wildfires that ignited across Texas and Oklahoma,” it wrote. “The fires are being fueled by favorable weather conditions including warm temperatures, low humidity, and strong winds.”

First Grassland Wildfire Broke Out on St. Patrick’s Day

The first blaze broke out on March 17th and quickly spread across 42,000 acres. Then three days later, new fires ignited in the grasslands of OK, AK, and TX.

On March 20th, NASA shared that at least three first responders had died because of the fires, including Deputy Sgt. Barbara Fenley. The officer was killed while helping residents of Eastland County evacuate their homes.

While driving door-to-door, low visibility caused the 51-year-old to run off the road and into a fire.

“Sgt. Fenley gave her life in the service of others and loved her community,” the Eastland County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. “She will be deeply missed.”

Unfortunately, Texas will likely continue to battle the fires for at least a few days longer. More than 40% of the state is experiencing an extreme drought, despite getting some relief last week. And most cities don’t have rain in the forecast until mid-week.

“We are getting into a period of high drying,” Luke Kanclerz, a wildland fire analyst at Texas A&M Forest Service, said. “And so we do expect to see fire activity to increase over the weekend and into next week.”