Robin Verble-Pearson is an expert in prescribed burning, fire management and fire
Residents of the Texas Panhandle and the South Plains woke up Tuesday morning to a
dense haze of smoke covering the area from fires that burned all afternoon and night
in the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles, Nebraska and Kansas. By 9 p.m. Monday, the fires
in the Amarillo area, which were less than 20 percent contained, had burned more than
23,000 acres and threatened more than 150 homes, forcing residents to evacuate.
Robin Verble-Pearson, assistant professor of fire ecology, Texas Tech University Department
of Natural Resources Management, (501) 400-6693 or firstname.lastname@example.org
There are currently two large wildfires burning in the Texas Panhandle, one of which
is threatening several homes near Amarillo. These fires were fanned by high wind
speeds that dried vegetation and allowed the fires to move rapidly across the landscape.
The fire risk for the area will remain high until we get some rain, and residents
should stay alert and be mindful of activities that may cause wildfires, such as outdoor
burning, welding, etc.
The smoke we are experiencing today is a result of north winds and a cold front pushing
the smoke into our area and causing it to settle here. National Weather Service forecasts
indicate it should start to disperse by this afternoon or tomorrow morning.
Wildfire risks are present in any natural forested or grassland area, from the southern
plains of Texas to the northern prairies of Canada.
We aren't seeing more frequent wildfires these days. In fact, in the U.S., the number
of wildfires was cut in half during the 1980s due to forest management approaches
that include wildfire suppression.
However, over climate timescales of multiple decades, there is an increasing trend
across western North America in the total area burned. That’s because, in a warmer
climate, the risk of having the type of hot, dry fire weather that allows fires to
spread out of control is increasing.
"As with all poor air quality, I would recommend limiting your exposure to it, particularly
if you have existing heart and breathing problems," Verble-Pearson said. "Ways to
minimize exposure include staying indoors, keeping doors and windows closed, running
an air filter if you have one and not using gas or wood stoves, candles or other indoor
"One important point to make — utilizing prescribed burning decreases your short-term
risk of wildfire damage on your property," Verble-Pearson said. "Prescribed burns
are ignited under pre-determined weather conditions, with high priorities on safety
of property and life, by experienced and trained professionals."
The college also consists of eleven research centers and institutes, including the
Cotton Economics Research Institute, the International Cotton Research Center and
the Fiber and Biopolymer Research Institute.