Firefighters in Silsbee spent the better part of Tuesday chasing grass and brush fires around the area.
By GERRY L. DICKERT
A dangerous combination of a recent freeze, no rain and high winds have prompted Hardin County Judge Billy Caraway to call for a burn ban, effective immediately.
Caraway conferred with the Texas Forestry Service and the county’s various fire departments before calling the ban on Wednesday, March 2.
“With the freezing temperatures we had a while back, the grass was killed off and it’s all brown and dry now,” said Caraway. “When you add the fact that we’ve had minimal rain and the wind has been blowing hard enough to dry out anything that had any moisture at all, you have a bad situation.”
County firefighters have been hopping with several calls daily to extinguish grass and brush fires. Most of those fires occur when people burn debris piles and walk away, leaving their fire unattended.
When they return, the wind pushes the fire into the dry grass and brush, creating a potentially devastating wildfire that could burn homes and barns.
“I know people want to get ready for the spring by getting their yards in shape and getting rid of debris,” said Caraway. “But we’re in a situation where homes, and potentially lives, could be in danger if we allow for open burning with the current conditions as they are.”
The National Weather Service has predicted a 30 percent chance of rain on Friday and a 70 percent chance on Saturday.
“It will take quite a bit of rain to really do any good in wetting things down,” said Caraway. “When it rains, it wets the top layer but the stuff underneath is still very dry. We’ll need a good drenching to get things back to where we can lift the ban.”
Burning during a ban is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $200 fine.
When the burn ban is eventually lifted, here are some tips to help keep things safe:
• Clear leaves and other debris from gutters, eaves, porches and decks. This prevents embers from igniting your home.
• Keep your lawn hydrated and maintained. Dry grass and shrubs are fuel for wildfire.
• Remove fuel within 3-5 feet of your home’s foundation and outbuildings including garages and sheds. If it can catch fire, don’t let it touch your house, deck or porch.
• Clear vegetation surrounding your home, at least 30 to 100 feet, depending on your area’s wildfire risk.
• Wildfire can spread to tree tops. If you have large trees on your property, prune so the lowest branches are 6 to 10 feet high.
• Don’t let debris and lawn cuttings linger. Dispose of these items quickly to reduce fuel for fire.
• When planting, choose slow-growing, carefully placed shrubs and trees so the area can be more easily maintained.
• Landscape with native and less-flammable plants. Your state forestry agency or county extension office can provide plant information.