Startling wildfire statistics revealed at Austin College wildfire conference

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SHERMAN, TX - Dry, hot conditions kept firefighters across Texoma busy fighting dangerous wildfires this summer and local fire officials say a huge majority of them were intentionally set. It's a sobering fact that was brought home to students at Austin College today in an event kicking off wildfire awareness week.

As a college student it's easy to get engrossed in studies and campus life, but sometimes that focus can hinder a student's ability to fully grasp the issues effecting our local community. Today at Austin College's Wright Center students were given an in depth look at just how bad this wildfire season has been.

21,000 wildfires, more than three million acres burned, 7,000 structures lost, and all of it being driven by La Nina, statistics that came as a shock to some Austin College students.

"I had no idea I guess of the breadth of information that would be offered."

With one of the worst droughts and wildfire season's in state history, Austin College's Service Station wanted students to know just how bad it's become.

"We really felt like with all the fires that are happening in Texas, if we claim to help serve the community, that's something we need to raise awareness for and have the student body be aware of," said Katelyn Boyles, Junior and Service Station board member.

At the colleges request Fire Chief Jeff Jones and professors David Baker and George Diggs sat down this morning to try to relay to students the gravity of what's been happening over the last couple of months.

"You look at the devastation in central Texas and the Bastrop Magnolia area, as well as what's going on here in grayson county," said Jones, "we have an issue."

Perhaps one of the most disturbing statistics, Jones says they've responded to nearly 90 fires intentionally set by arsonists in Grayson County since Labor Day weekend.

"That's a real problem and citizens need to be aware of that problem and to assist us by identifying suspicious people, suspicious vehicles and and activity that might increase that danger from fire," said Jones.

Boyles helped coordinate the event, she walked away with a whole new perspective.

"It was really helpful in understanding the context of what the fire chief himself was dealing with," said Boyles and what's happening in the rest of Texas."

Donation jars will be set up around the Austin College campus for the rest of the week and all the money collected will go toward wildfire relief efforts.

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