A fast-moving grass fire swept through a suburban neighborhood near Dallas on Monday, destroying or damaging at least 20 homes, displacing about 20 people and forcing evacuations as firefighters struggled to fight back flames in 103-degree heat, the authorities said.
No one was injured by the fire, which began at about 4 p.m. in Balch Springs after a crew cutting brush in a nearby dry field struck an object with a mower, creating sparks, said Sean Davis, the fire marshal in the city.
Communities in North Texas have battled triple-digit temperatures and drought conditions in recent weeks, resulting in weather ripe for grass fires, according to the National Weather Service in Fort Worth.
“It is somewhat unusual that it would get to the houses and cause this kind of extreme damage,” Mr. Davis said, adding, “we are kind of in an urban area.”
The fire came as dangerous heat conditions blanketed much of the country, and as some parts confronted roaring blazes: In California, the Oak fire, which became the state’s largest so far in 2022, has burned a total of 16,800 acres and still could threaten 3,300 homes and businesses. And in North Texas this month, dozens of local firefighters have been deployed to extinguish smaller fires that have destroyed, or threatened to destroy, homes, The Dallas Morning News reported.
Though Monday’s fire in Balch Springs was small in size, the speed at which it traveled alarmed firefighters, who rushed to evacuate people from the homes, Mr. Davis said.
Wind gusts of 20 miles per hour were “pushing the fire” rapidly, Mr. Davis said.
“We’re in pretty stringent drought conditions,” he said. “It definitely had to do with it.”
Photos and video from the scene showed charred wooden fences and black billows of smoke rising from a row of two-story homes, their roofs consumed by orange flames.
Firefighters had mostly contained the fire by about 7 p.m., Mr. Davis said.
While tying a single heat wave to climate change requires extensive attribution analysis, heat waves around the world are becoming more frequent and increasingly dangerous, and lasting longer.
The 2018 National Climate Assessment, a major scientific report by 13 federal agencies, notes that the number of hot days is increasing, and the frequency of heat waves in the United States jumped from an average of two per year in the 1960s to six per year by the 2010s. Also, the season for heat waves has stretched to be 45 days longer than it was in the 1960s, according to the report.