ABILENE, Texas -

Critical fire weather conditions are expected across West Texas today.

Red Flag warnings are in effect for Abilene and much of the Big Country. The warnings will start at noon and run through approximately 7 p.m.

Red Flag Warnings are in effect for 16 counties in the region: Haskell, Throckmorton, Scurry, Fisher, Jones, Shackelford, Stephens, Mitchell, Nolan, Taylor, Callahan, Eastland, Sterling, Coke, Runnels, and Tom Green.

A Red Flag Warning is a Fire Weather Warning issued by the National Weather Service to inform area firefighters and others that conditions are ideal for fast-spreading wildfires.   

The reason for the issuance of this warning today is several factors: Very low relative humidity values between 15 and 20 percent, strong sustained winds of 20 to 30 mph gusting even higher, warm air temperatures near 70 degrees, and extremely dry vegetation.

Because of current environmental conditions, any fires that develop can spread rapidly and, therefore, burning is strongly discouraged.

In addition, even if a county isn’t listed under the official warning, all West Texas residents are encouraged to proceed with caution and take the current weather conditions seriously.