EDITOR DANIEL CLIFTON
Scorching triple-digit temperatures continue this week with little relief from the heat in sight and an ever-increasing fire danger.
The National Weather Service issued a heat advisory from noon to 7 p.m. Monday and Tuesday for portions of the Highland Lakes as temperatures are expected to reach 102-104 degrees. Even as a high-pressure system weakens its grip on Texas, temperatures will remain in the upper 90s.
The extreme heat and dry weather also have fire officials watchful. Though Blanco, Burnet, and Llano counties and many local municipalities have issued burn bans, it doesn’t take much to ignite a grass fire.
“Any small spark outside could get a grass or brush fire going very quickly,” said Marble Falls Fire Rescue Fire Marshal Tommy Crane. “It’s extremely dry out there, and the winds have been blowing pretty much every day. Those conditions make (the land) pretty susceptible to grass fires.”
Crane urged people to be careful when doing anything outside that could cause a spark and ignite a fire.
He recommends homeowners look into the Firewise program, which outlines how to better defend homes and structures, particularly those in urban interface areas where houses are built among natural vegetation and wildlands.
A key part of that program, Crane said, is the creation of a defensible space around a home or structure.
“A defensible space is where you keep yards clean, keep the grass cut, clean out the gutters, and keep the brush cut back,” he said. “It’s anything you can do to remove those fuels. And if a grass fire does come up to the property, hopefully, it will go around your house.”
Crane also recommends homeowners devise an evacuation plan in case of wildfire or another emergency. Ready, Set, Go outlines steps you can take as well as items you should have in a grab bag if you need to evacuate in a hurry.
“People can come by the station and pick up brochures on Firewise and Ready, Set, Go,” he added.
The Marble Falls Fire Rescue station is located at 700 Avenue N.
Along with threats to structures, grassfires are dangerous to the firefighters themselves.
“There’s a lot of heat when fighting grass fires,” Crane said. “There’s the temperature itself and the heat from the fire.”
The addition of firefighting gear and equipment and the physical exertion makes for a dangerous mix.
“You also have the different behaviors a wildfire or grass fire has,” Crane said. “You never know how it may shift or change directions, so that’s another thing we have to worry about.”
By taking precautions while outdoors and working with anything that might cause a spark, you also help protect firefighters and first responders.
As for the heat advisory and hot temperatures, you should plan outside activities for the cooler parts of the day. Also, wear loose, light-fitting clothing and drink plenty of water when outdoors. Health officials recommend taking regular breaks and finding refuge from the heat, whether in an air-conditioned building or the shade.
Also, check on elderly relatives and neighbors as well as those who might have an illness or condition compounded by the heat.