Caution urged as exceptional drought conditions heighten fire potential
Source: Texas A&M Forest Service and AgriLife Extension
Due to exceptional drought conditions in the Panhandle and South Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a state of disaster on Aug. 23. Abbott announced the state of disaster in Duval, Hall, Jim Hogg, Randall, Swisher, Webb and Zapata counties.
In early July, only 5% of the state registered any drought level. Almost seven weeks later, 73% of the state has some level of drought per the U.S. Drought Monitor. Wildfire activity in Texas has been increasing since the first of August. This increasing trend is likely to continue as the summer drying trend continues.
In Texas, approximately 90% of wildfires are human caused. The most common human-caused wildfires in 2019 have been from debris burning and equipment use.
“Dry conditions and abundance of grass, brush and other ground cover can quickly turn an unattended spark into a wildfire,” said Bruce Woods, Texas A&M Forest Service mitigation and prevention department head.
Residents are encouraged to follow the below recommendations to help prevent wildfires.
Safe Equipment Use:
• Grinders, welders, mowers, shredders, balers and other heavy equipment all produce heat and have the potential to start a wildfire.
• Exercise caution when using equipment on hot, dry, and windy days.
• Keep the machinery free of debris build-up and in good repair. Always keep a fire extinguisher nearby in case a fire starts.
• Residents should avoid driving in tall, dry grass where the hot catalytic converter can start wildfires – catalytic converters operate between 550-1,600° F and can reach 2,000° F if the engine is not running properly.
Safe Debris Burning:
• Before burning, check with officials to make sure your county is not under a burn ban.
• Choose a day to burn with winds under 10 mph and high relative humidity for your area.
• Keep the debris pile small and only add more material as it burns down. Clear the area around the pile down to mineral soil.
• Always stay with your fire and have equipment on hand in case it gets out of the designated area.
Residents are also encouraged to follow all local burn regulations. In Texas, county burn bans restrict outdoor burning for public safety and are determined by county judges and county commissioners. When considering a burn ban, county judges and county commissioners analyze wildfire danger ratings and current wildfire ignition data provided by the Texas A&M Forest Service.
Texas county burn ban information is reported to Texas A&M Forest Service and can be found at http://tfsweb.tamu.edu/TexasBurnBans/.
For more information on the state of disaster, visit https://gov.texas.gov/news/post/governor-abbott-declares-state-of-disaster-in-south-texas-due-to-drought-conditions.