Following some wet fall weather, South Texas has seen a couple of freezes and an extended dry period as the holiday season approaches.
The situation is one that Beeville Volunteer Fire Department Chief Donald Morris warned about earlier.
The chief said his prediction is coming true and even a little early this year. There is a lot of tall, dry grass and brush in the countryside and in some parts of the city and that would provide plenty of fuel for any fire that gets out of control.
James Barrie, regional fire coordinator for the Texas Forest Service, said conditions are moderate right now but he expects that to change to high risk in the next few weeks.
On Thursday, for example, Barrie expects to see a red flag day in South Texas when a cold front with high north winds arrives in the area.
“With more cold weather right now, we’re cautioning hunters,” Barrie said.
Parking a vehicle off a road in high grass with a hot exhaust system can quickly cause a fire.
“In fact,” Barrie said, “it was a ranch vehicle that was parked in high grass” that started a 1,500-acre fire in Brooks County recently.
Barrie also urged hunters to be careful with ricocheting bullets because they have been known to spark grass and brush fires.
With above average dryness and below average moisture conditions, burning vegetation releases a lot more energy, allowing wildfires to be much more destructive, Barrie said.
Bee County Fire Marshall Ken Orrell said the best way to prevent dangerous wildfires is to use plain, old common sense.
He and Morris are urging that people in town and in the countryside take the time to mow around their homes, fence lines and outbuildings to reduce the amount of fuel that could burn in the event of a wildfire.
There is no reason to allow high grass to remain near a building. It only makes it more likely that a grass fire will destroy a structure.
Both also urge people who are burning trash in a barrel to put a screen over the container to prevent embers from flying out and igniting brush and grass.
Orrell also recommended that anyone burning anything right now have a supply of water handy in case the fire gets out of control. That could be a garden hose or even a pail or two of water.
Morris has cautioned people previously that a fire can get out of control in seconds and quickly spread to the point that even a supply of water cannot stop it.
“We’re not under a burn ban yet,” Morris said. But that could change quickly if conditions continue to remain as they are.
Morris said no one should be burning when winds are blowing more than 15-20 miles per hour.
“These are state rules,” Morris said.
“We’ve been fortunate that we’ve had few grass fires,” Morris added. The worst one occurred recently when 200 acres burned east of the city across the street from the Chase Field Industrial Airport Complex.
“They’ve also had some pretty rough fires south of us,” Morris said.
Orrell said the best way to prevent serious wildfires is to engage the brain. “Use your common sense and be careful,” he urged.