AUSTIN (KXAN) — Summer wildfires are no surprise in Texas. The high heat and low humidity create conditions perfect to spread sparks. Experts warn this year about a winter wildfire season, with drought conditions in parts of the state.
“Over 90 percent of the states largest wildfires have happened between January and March,” Texas A&M Forest Service Wildland Urban Interface Specialist Kari Hines said. “Just one spark on one dry day can potentially be an extremely large wildfire.”
This winter wildfire warning from the Forest Service comes in the wake of neighborhoods torched in California earlier this month.
“You don’t just have one fire season anymore, it’s a year-round fire season, just depending on how dry it is and how windy it is,” Hines added.
“We really have to start all the way back at last spring,” she explained. “We had large amounts of rain all across the state line to quite a bit of growth in your grasses and your shrubs. Fast forward to this fall we had seasonally low amounts of rainfall, and going into the winter it looks like it is going to stay that way. It looks like we are going to have a persistent drought across part of the state with high temperatures and low amounts of rainfall.”
According to forest service data from Jan. 1 through Dec. 13, there were 9,291 wildfires in Texas, damaging more than 715,088 acres. Forty-nine homes were destroyed.
Hines cited prevention and mitigation as two of the best ways to keep wildfires from ravaging land and homes in Texas.
“If you don’t have that spark to begin with, if we don’t have machinery malfunctioning, if we don’t have chains dragging down the road, if we don’t have catalytic converters that aren’t working properly, then we don’t have sparks, and we don’t have the wildfires,” she said about prevention.
Mitigation “actually means changing the things around your house, and our public property to decrease the chance that a wildfire can move quickly and intensely,’ she said.
She mentioned paying attention to the weather goes a long way.
“If you are going to be out there doing some shredding in your pasture, if you are going to be welding, if you are going to be working around the ranch doing to do debris burning, pay attention to those days that are your red flag days, that might have a lower humidity,” Hines stated.
Experts suggest always having a hose or other water source nearby, and clearing dead leaves or brush before burning debris.