Extreme drought leads to busy wildfire season across Texas

HOUSTON, TX (KTRK) — This week’s severe thunderstorms brought some much-needed relief from the heat, but the Texas A&M Forest Service said it didn’t bring much rainfall to areas that needed it. Strong winds and increased lightning also made it difficult for our forest fire brigades.

Montgomery County fire marshal Jimmy Williams said wildfires caused by lightning have kept firefighters busy in recent days, like those in Trinity and Polk counties. In fact, some of her crew members returned from a 21-day deployment on Wednesday.

“They’ve been to several big wildfires, but they get that experience by using their training. This will make them better prepared to fight the wildfires here at home,” Williams said.

ABC13 meteorologist Kevin Roth said Wednesday’s storms pushed as much as 3.5 inches into some parts of our field of view. So we asked if it affected our drought.

SEE ALSO: Texas wildfires spread as state experiences record-breaking heat

“Every drop helps, especially when it’s raining by the inch. yes it is important yes it helps But it’s not a drought-buster rain said.

Williams advised community members not to be fooled by the showers we’ve been seeing this week, stressing we still need to be on high alert and follow current burn bans. Roth said the ban is still in effect for all southeast Texas counties, but that could change once conditions begin to improve. Extreme drought is currently affecting 100% of Harris County.

“It looks like we’re going to get some significant chances of rain over the weekend and we need that. But going into next week we will start drying out in the middle of next week. We’re right back to hot, dry and high temperatures in the upper 90s near 100 degrees,” Roth said.

Williams said we were just one wind event away from a catastrophic wildfire, citing the 2011 Tri-County wildfire that destroyed dozens of homes.

“A good example would be a tropical event that would take place in Louisiana where we would be on the dry side but we would have high winds for a day or two. That’s the kind of event, coupled with drought conditions, where we really could have a big wildfire,” he said.

Ryan Burns with Texas AAccording to &M Forest Service, about nine out of ten forest fires are man-made. Williams said one of Montgomery County’s most recently contained fires near Woodforest Golf Club in Fish Creek was started by an outdoor fire. It charred 60 acres, destroying most of the property and threatening surrounding homes. A subpoena was issued to the property owner for violating the ban on burning.

ALSO SEE: Lightning strikes wildfire at a Brazoria County shelter

Burns said 16,995 acres have been burned by 2,090 wildfires across East Texas so far this year. They’ve had 668 out-of-state firefighters helping with the response effort, and in the past 24 hours they’ve received five new requests for assistance with wildfires across the state. Governor Greg Abbott announced Wednesday that the state would be sending additional resources to assist local fire departments fighting wildfires across our state.

Fire officials said they are keeping an eye on conditions this year as it is on track for one of Texas’ worst wildfire seasons on record.

“So of course the story of this wildfire season, the script, is still being written. This is the most significant wildfire season we have seen in a long time. People often compare them to 2011 and there are certainly some similarities. We are expected to remain as dry as we are for the long term. We’re seeing a huge surge in activity this summer,” he said.

Williams encourages residents who live in areas near dry vegetation to take the following steps to reduce the risk of wildfires to their homes:

  • Clean roofs and gutters of dead leaves, debris and pine needles that could get caught in embers.
  • Replace or repair loose or missing shingles or roof tiles to prevent embers from entering.
  • Reduce embers that might pass through vents in the eaves by installing a 1/8-inch metal screen.
  • Clean debris from exterior attic vents and install a 1/8-inch metal screen to reduce embers.
  • Repair or replace damaged or loose window screens and broken windows. Shield areas under patios and decks with chicken wire to prevent debris and combustible materials from collecting.
  • Remove combustible material from exterior walls—mulch, combustible plants, leaves and needles, piles of firewood—anything that can burn. Remove anything stored below decks or porches.

To check drought conditions in the state of Texas, visit the US Drought Monitor website. To follow the latest wildfires in the state of Texas, click here for the Texas A&M Forest Service Incident Viewer.

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https://abc13.com/wildfires-grass-fire-brush-drought-monitor/12118723/ Extreme drought leads to busy wildfire season across Texas

Dais Johnston

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