ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – The National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning for much of the Abilene area as the Mesquite Heat Fire continues to devastate Taylor County.
Weather Service officials say the warning will be in effect from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday for the following Big Country counties: Fisher, Nolan, Coke, Runnels, Haskell, Throckmorton, Jones, Shackelford, Taylor, Callahan and Coleman.
Red flag warnings are issued when “a combination of high winds, low humidity and dry combustibles will contribute to extreme fire behavior,” according to the weather service.
Conditions contributing to the Abilene area red flag warning include south to southwest winds with speeds of 15 to 20 miles per hour and gusts of around 30 miles per hour, relative humidity as well lower than 5% and extremely dry fuels.
The Texas A&M Forest Service also pays attention to Red Flag warnings, stating that “it alerts local land management branches to the occurrence, or possible occurrence, of severe weather and fuel wetness conditions that could cause a rapid or dramatic increase in wildfire activity.”
The Mesquite Heat Fire burned approximately 5,000 acres in Taylor County on Wednesday evening and is only 5% contained.
Despite firefighting efforts, the fire jumped over Highway 277, closing in on the town of Buffalo Gap. The city has been spared so far, but houses, farms, structures, and even places on the outskirts are likely completely lost.
Evacuation orders are still in effect. Click here for an up-to-date list of evacuations.