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Wildfire threatens Texas mountain resort; drought conditions expected to continue

In an early start to fire season, 24 states and Washington, D.C., have posted red flag fire warnings. NBC's Tom Costello reports.

The first major Texas wildfire of the season was threatening a group of rustic cabins in the Davis Mountains, NBC News reported.

Firefighters were battling the blaze, which covers 20,000 acres, in an area that was struck by uncontrolled burning exactly a year ago, according to NBCDWF.com.

The blaze comes as federal authorities and forecasters were anticipating an active, though not especially fierce, season.

Former volunteer fire chief Kelly Bryan told NBCDWF.com that no injuries or structural losses were reported in the fires at the Davis Mountain Resort. The area is some 175 miles southeast of El Paso.

Texas Forest Service spokeswoman April Saginor told the news channel that a 10,000-acre fire was burning uncontained Monday night at the Livermore Ranch, within 1½ miles of the resort.

Saginor said firefighters had a 9,900-acre blaze at Spring Mountain 60 percent contained Monday night.

The forest service said lightning strikes sparked the fires.

Four large uncontained fires, including the two Texas fires, were raging as of Tuesday, according to the National Interagency Fire Agency.

A new 500-acre fire was burning 11 miles south of Bowls in Arizona in the Apache Pass area. That fire was not  threatening any structures, according to KVOA-TV. It was believed to be a human-caused fire.

In Florida, a nearly 35,000-acre fire near the county line with Georgia was reported to be 80 percent contained.

A wildfire on Hawaii’s island of Oahu, on the leeward coast, has torched 200 acres of a wildlife reserve. The fire began on Monday night in the Makua Keaau Forest Reserve near Keaau Beach Park. Firefighters were using helicopters to fight the blaze in rough terrain, KITV-TV reported.

'Perfect recipe' for wildfires as season starts early 

Meanwhile, the federal government was bracing for an active wildfire season.

"We are ready to meet the challenge," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said at a news conference Thursday ahead of the fire season. "Our concern does not stop at the border of federal lands, but rather a strategy that is an all-lands approach for safety and wildfire management."

More than 15,000 firefighters will be available this year, officials said, including permanent and seasonal federal and state employees, crews from tribal and local governments, contract crews and temporary hires.

An unusually dry winter in much of the southwestern U.S. is expected to continue the “severe to exceptional drought from last year across most of western Texas, New Mexico and Arizona,” according to the national wildland fire outlook.

Above normal fire potential was expected across southwestern New Mexico and the southeastern third of Arizona through May.

Still, the broader wildfire forecast for parts of Texas was expected to be normal through the fire season, which runs through Aug. 31, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Parts of east Texas, as well as Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, were expected to see below-normal fire potential, the forecast said.

In southern and central California, recent rains were expected to lead to a normal start to the fire season, the forecast said, with significant fire potential in interior areas increasing as the season goes along because rainfall that was 50 percent to 70 percent of normal.

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