Caution: Fire danger ahead

November 28, 2012

It’s not spring. Really it’s not.

The mild and even somewhat warm temperatures for this time of year are pleasant, but there is also a potential danger out there.

A lack of rain and other contributing factors may force Hood County officials to consider reinstating a burn ban – sooner rather than later.

Good rainfall totals last spring resulted in increased plant growth – now poised to serve as a greater fuel source and raising the stakes for fire danger.

“The conditions are right (for fire), and we’re starting to get winds,” Fire Marshal Brian Fine said. “Once you get winds, the potential is there for a bad day.”

The drought index scale – from zero on the bottom ranging as high as 800 on the top side – shows this area averaging about 621 recently, Fine said.

“The drought conditions we’re in right now is usually what we’re in in about July,” Fine said. “We haven’t had any significant rainfall penetrating the ground. Everything is starting to go into the dormant phases. The occasionally freezing nights saps what moisture there is out of the plants. There’s a lot of dry fuel growth out there.

“It looks like unless we get rain between now and Dec. 11, we will have to have a burn ban on the (County Commissioners) agenda.”

If that happens, Fine said that fireworks with “sticks and fins” sold for use in connection with New Year celebrations could be banned in the county.

Fine said if there is enough rain to bring the drought index below about 575, no action will be needed. He said “a couple of good nights” of rain could cure that.

But after taking a look at the long-range weather forecast, he cautioned, “It’s not looking promising right now. It may be a long winter.”

There haven’t been any major grass fires recently in the county. Fine said that people conducting controlled burns have been reporting them in advance to the Fire Marshal’s Office – as they should.

“We also haven’t had winds until recently, either,” Fine said, noting that tomorrow is likely to be a high fire danger day.

Fine said that if the drought index number were to climb to 675, the fireworks sales period might be curtailed by a couple of days. If the index rises to 730 on the scale, all fireworks would likely be banned.

“If we get no rain in the next two weeks, we would probably jump from 621 to 645,” Fine said. “We could be cutting it close to that 675.”

Fine urged anyone planning on having a controlled burn in the county to call his office (817-579-3335) to make sure conditions aren’t too dangerous at that time.

“With controlled burning, be very cautious. Get a hold of us first. We may ask you to hold a day or two,” Fine said. “Fuels are definitely right to go (burn).”

[email protected]|817-573-7066, ext. 254

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