Marble Falls Fire Rescue and other agencies responded to a number of grassfires over the weekend, highlighting the continuous risk as drought conditions persist. Marble Falls Fire Rescue photo
The recent rainfall wasn’t enough to dampen the danger of wildfires across the Highland Lakes. Marble Falls Fire Rescue responded to a grassfire each day over the May 6-8 weekend. Luckily, the blazes were not large, but officials are cautioning residents to be careful when involved in activities that could spark a fire of any size.
“Even though there’s been rain over the area, this part of the (Burnet County) hasn’t received much, so it’s still critically dry,” said Fire Chief Russell Sander, referring to Marble Falls and the southern part of the county.
The Keetch-Byram Drought Index on Tuesday, May 10, rated parts of Burnet County between 368 and 653 on a scale of zero to 800. The higher the number, the drier the soil conditions and the greater the risk of wildfires.
Southern Burnet County has drier conditions, in the 600 range, compared to northeast Burnet County in the 300 range.
“It’s pretty easy for a fire to start right now in our area,” Sander added. “We’re asking everyone to be careful when they’re doing anything outside that can start a fire, even making sure chains on your trailers aren’t dragging (down the road).”
People living outside of municipalities in Burnet County and Llano County are restricted by burn bans, according to the counties’ websites. People within municipalities should check with their city offices or fire departments regarding burn bans or outdoor fire permits.
A flame is not always required to start a grassfire. A spark from outdoor equipment or heat from an engine or catalytic converter parked over dry vegetation can ignite a fire.
No relief from dry conditions is in the forecast through Saturday, May 14, according to the National Weather Service. High temperatures will range in the low to mid-90s, which will continue to dry out vegetation and soil, possibly making conditions worse, Sander said.
The hot, dry weather also takes a toll on firefighters battling blazes, who face an added danger of heat-related illnesses.
“The extreme heat is very difficult on us,” Sander said. “We’ll need longer rest periods for firefighters. In larger fires, we’ll have to rotate crews out more often. Wildfires, especially with this heat, are more challenging on crews and on equipment. The best thing we can do is just try and prevent them.”