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 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 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 strong winds, low humidity and dry fuels 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 around 30 miles per hour, a relative humidity as low as 5%, and critically to extremely dry fuels.

The Texas A&M Forest Service also pays attention to Red Flag warnings, saying “this alerts local land management branches about the onset, or possible onset, of serious weather and fuel moisture conditions that could cause rapid or dramatic increases in wildfire activity.”

As of Wednesday night, the Mesquite Heat Fire has burned as estimated 5,000 acres in Taylor County and is only 5% contained.

Despite firefighting efforts, the fire jumped over Highway 277, moving closer to the town of Buffalo Gap. The town has been spared so far, but may homes, farms, structures, and even venues in the outlying area likely totally lost.

Evacuation orders still remain in effect. Click here for an up-do-date list of evacuations.