More than 100 Texas counties have enacted a ban on outdoor burning as the fire danger heats up due to lack of rain and dry conditions. Source: Texas A&M Forest Service
STAFF WRITER CONNIE SWINNEY
BURNET — A growing fire danger and dry conditions have prompted counties in the Highland Lakes — most recently Burnet County —to enact outdoor burn bans.
On Jan. 31, Burnet County banned outdoor burning, joining Lampasas, Llano, Mason, Travis, and Williamson counties.
The decision was made the same day the Texas A&M Forest Service issued a “very high” fire danger alert, which has expanded from the Wichita Falls area southward through parts of Central Texas.
“There hasn’t been any measurable precipitation,” said Assistant Chief Chuck Dear of the Marble Falls Area Volunteer Fire Department. “The fuel moisture is so low, especially in the afternoons, where it’s causing some extreme fire dangers.
“We’re in the extreme drought position right now,” he added.
In the past three weeks, Burnet County fire agencies have battled back a number of small grass fires in unincorporated areas, including Whitewater Springs outside of Bertram and The Overlook west of Marble Falls.
Previous precipitation fueled growth among foliage only to be followed by periods of dry, windy conditions. The plant growth, particularly grasses and brush, adds to the potential fuels for fire.
“It doesn’t take much for a blade to hit a rock or piece of metal in a pasture and cause a spark,” he said. “If someone has a flat- tire or a blowout, you can get sparks, (as well as from) a chain dragging from a trailer, throwing a lit cigarette.
“The grass starts smoldering, and (a fire) will take off,” Dear added.
According to the Lower Colorado River Authority, the Central Texas region has lacked significant rain for the past two months and trended below normal since September 2017.
For fire officials, the incidents and the forecast have signaled the potential for larger problems in weeks to come.