Wildfires have scorched about 300 square miles, or nearly 191,000 acres, of Texas this year, nearly twice as much as in all of 2010.
A "perfect storm" of low humidity, gusty winds and unseasonably warm weather created high fire danger across much of the state, Lewis Kearney of the Texas Forest Service said Thursday.
"Wednesday we even had high fire danger around Houston because of the low humidity," he said. "Long range, we can't see any relief."
In the past seven days, the agency has responded to 94 fires that burned about 216 square miles, or 138,351 acres, most of them in the Panhandle and West Texas, Kearney said.
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"Everything is ripe for a fire," he said.
On Thursday, a red-flag warning for extreme fire danger covered a crescent of more than a dozen counties about 30 miles west of Interstate 35, from the Oklahoma border to Central Texas.Of Texas' 254 counties, 153 are reporting outdoor burn bans.
"We don't expect any relief until April when things start to green up," said Kearney, who is stationed in Merkel, just west of Abilene.
Temporary relief might arrive today, with a 50 percent chance of rain in the Metroplex, said Dan Huckaby of the National Weather Service in Fort Worth.
"It could be strong in a brief window that may linger into Saturday," Huckaby said. "With the front coming through, we'll be a little cool this weekend. We could get a heavy frost Sunday morning, which isn't unusual -- the average last freeze date for D-FW is March 13."
Fire danger is expected to ratchet back up Monday and Tuesday, with highs in the upper 70s and elevated winds northwest of the Metroplex, Huckaby said.
Efforts continue to assess damage from wildfires since Sunday in West Texas. Emergency management personnel in Randall and Potter counties estimate that the wildfires caused nearly $13 million in structural damage, destroying about 70 residences.
The dry conditions are spreading across much of the state, Huckaby said.
"The Metroplex is abnormally dry, but we're not that bad off -- it's worse all around us," Huckaby said.
"D-FW is about 2 inches below normal for the year," he said. "But since Tropical Storm Hermine in early September, we're about 6 inches below normal. It's pretty significant, about 50 percent of normal over five months."
This report includes material from The Associated Press.
Steve Campbell, 817-390-7981