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Hot and dry conditions heighten fire danger this July 4 holiday

STAFF WRITER CONNIE SWINNEY

BURNET —As Highland Lakes residents experience more days with triple-digit temperatures, fire officials have sent out a warning to Independence Day revelers about the potential fire danger.

“While we had quite a bit of good rain, we still have some areas with dead cedars and a lot of area where water hasn’t helped the dry brush,” Marble Falls Area Volunteer Fire Chief Mike Phillips said.

Also, on June 27, Burnet County Commissioners enacted a ban on outdoor burning.

“The observed fire danger is still low; however, the climate prediction center shows the next two weeks should be warmer and drier than normal,” Precinct 4 Commissioner Joe Don Dockery said. “That was the combination that was the trigger for me.”

One concern included a mid-June blaze sparked by lightning in the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge, just east of Marble Falls.

“It went from a small lightning strike and grew into a five-acre fire,” Phillips said. “You can get a small fire, and the winds can push that fire along real quick.”

Forecasters have predicted mostly sunny skies through the holiday weekend with temperatures hovering in the upper 90s, according to the Lower Colorado River Authority.

“This is July,” Phillips said. “We’ve already seen some 100-degree days.”

Between the burn ban and heat warning, officials hope residents pay heed and use common sense to avoid a runaway blaze.

“It’s the summer season. July is one of our drier months,” Dockery said. “We’re trying to be somewhat proactive on this, be ahead of the curve, instead of being reactive or waiting until we’re in a dangerous fire situation.”

connie@thepicayune.com