Red Flag Warnings Have Basin Firefighters on High Alert

By Jen Kastner
NewsWest 9

CRANE- On Sunday, nearly 50 volunteer firefighters from four counties were called out to Crane to fight two large grass fires that were several hundred acres in size. They were the first big fires of Crane's 2012 fire season. Even local ranchers were helping fight the blazes with whatever water they had.

Gusty winds, humidity below 15% and temperatures around 90 degrees Fahrenheit means much of the Basin is under a red flag warning. On Monday, all of West Texas has been upgraded to a red flag warning from just a fire weather watch.

Fire season is here. Crane County has been gearing up.

Crane Volunteer Fire Chief Barry Ingram says, "We have been cutting fire breaks around the city. We have been doing fire preparedness with the citizens of Crane, as well as preparing all of our firemen for it.

The Midland Fire Department says they've been preparing for months.

Battalion Chief Chad Clark says, "We spend some time early before the fire season even starts with the fire weather forecasters just to get their input on what they think about the fuel loads and potential weather patterns."

MFD took photos of the grasslands last year before the fires started so they could compare those conditions to what they're working with now.

"I can go back this year and evaluate the fuels, the grasslands and the densities and compare those to what we think the fuel load is going to be and that really makes a big difference in how it's going to impact this fire season," Clark said.

MFD doesn't think this season will be as bad as last season because the brush isn't quite as thick this year. They say they'll increase their staffing when they need to, but they didn't do it this weekend. They base those decisions on a red flag threat index that they look at daily.