Dry, cool front in Highland Lakes raises risk of wildfires
CONNIE SWINNEY • STAFF WRITER
MARBLE FALLS — As the thermometer inches up toward spring-like conditions, a dry, cool front is expected Feb. 8 to move in and potentially raise the risk of wildfires.
According to the Lower Colorado River Authority, forecasters have reported temperatures as much as 20 degrees above normal for February; however, high temperatures could peak for now.
By mid-week, cooler temperatures are expected to descend on the Hill Country with highs in the upper 60s and mid-70s along with the possibility of lower humidity.
“If it gets drier than normal this time of year and the wind picks up, we could have what’s called a ‘red flag warning’ day,” Burnet Fire Marshal John Erskine said. “It can be issued for hours, or even days, depending on what the relative humidity is and the wind speed.”
With the warning comes the potential for runaway wildfires in the rural areas of Burnet, Blanco, and Llano counties.
“The biggest thing people can do is be responsible when they make the decision to burn,” Erskine said. “Fire reacts to humidity. If it’s lower humidity, it’s obviously going to be worst-case scenario if a fire gets out.”
For now, controlled burning is permitted in surrounding counties, but that could change once officials take a closer look at the heat index, which monitors factors that contribute to fire danger.
Even without a designated warning, fire officials recommend residents take a few precautions to avoid disaster.
“Generally speaking, if people are having a problem with their car and have to pull over, it’s best to stay on the shoulder,” Erskine said. “Those things under the car that heat up could cause a grass fire.”
Other tips are:
• avoid throwing flammable materials out of vehicle windows;
• call ahead to the fire department or sheriff’s office dispatch to report a planned controlled burn, keep a water source nearby, and avoid burning after dark;
• and when cooking outdoors, check for stray coals and keep combustible items a distance from the grill.
Despite the mid-week conditions, forecasters predict temperatures in the 80s once again for this weekend.