Texas fires take manpower and economic toll

LONGVIEW,T X (KLTV) - Drought, dry grass and trees have been the fuel for multiple fires all over the state of Texas causing fire departments and state agencies to be stretched thin on manpower and resources. A furious and exhausting few days for firefighters all across east Texas, trying to contain the powder keg that the heat has reduced the land to.

"It is a huge concern when crews come on duty not knowing if they're going to have a huge grass fire or a structure fire," says Longview fire marshal Johnny Zachary.

Texas forest service statistics show that since fire season started in November, through July 10, 2011, over 13-thousand wildfires have been reported statewide. The concern for smaller departments is numerous fires at the same time, and getting to them takes manpower. Volunteer departments like White Oak struggle with issues of manpower and less fire fighting equipment.

"Its really taxing on a volunteer fire department wherever they are, the fires are getting bigger, they're covering areas faster than maybe what we can keep up with, and volunteers have regular day jobs, those guys are still working so you've got a skeleton crew that can respond," says White Oak fire chief Jim Nall.

Departments all over east Texas have been kept busy fighting small and big fires ranging from an acre to a 100, and it takes a toll on firefighters themselves.

"Firefighters in this kind of weather are good for about 10 minutes, and then they're got to rest, dehydration and fatigue really set in quickly," Nall says.

According to the Texas forestry service incident web site, over 3-million acres have been burned statewide by wildfires, destroying over 500 homes and 1,000 other structures.

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