TAYLOR, Texas (KXAN) — With the hot and dry weather still ripe for wildfires, events are having to modify how they operate; that includes the yearly International BBQ Cook Off in Taylor.

Fire extinguishers, jugs of water and inspections by the Taylor Fire Department were just a few precautions taken at the event.

“When you’ve got fire going and all the dry grass and trees and everything in the wind, you want to make sure that you’ve got precautions. We always have water and a fire extinguisher on hand just in case,” said cook off participant Kathryn Paulsen.

Because of the fire danger this year, TFD was at the event to check fire pits and smokers as they exited Murphy Park, where the event was held.

“This is a unique situation. We welcome them to come and inspect the sites,” said cook off organizer Tim Mikeska.

Mikeska said after 44 years, this is the first time they’ve had TFD do that.

“No pit or smoker will leave until it’s been emptied and inspected and make sure there’s no embers that will leave that as they go home,” Mikeska said.

78 teams competed in this year’s event. Mikeska said they are all from Texas, but previously people have come from all across the world.

“We’ve had people through the years from England, from Europe, from the islands, the Caribbean islands,” Mikeska said.

Fire prevention rules

Some of the rules in place were:

  • Each pit must be monitored by at least one person
  • Douse water in the area around generator and pits
  • Each team needs a fire extinguisher
  • Each pit/smokers must be either in/on a trailer or on metal legs off the ground
  • Each team needs a metal shovel to remove pit debris/ash
  • Pit/smokers will be checked by the Taylor Fire Department upon exiting

Paulsen said she and her family didn’t mind the fire prevention plan because it helped keep the cook off tradition safe.

“They make sure that all of the hot ashes are dispensed the right way,” Paulsen said. “You don’t drive out of here and drop it out while you’re driving out and cause a fire along the way.”

Paulsen said she and her family have been coming to the cook off for more than 20 years.

“It’s really about family and the small town atmosphere and camaraderie,” she said. “Everybody helping everybody else out. And then of course, good barbecue.”

Cook off participant Edward Knapek said the heat was concerning but he was encouraged by the fire measures in place.

He said he’s leaving with both a full heart and stomach.

“At least a pound of brisket,” Knapek said. “It was a lot. I don’t need anymore.”

The cook off was a two-day event. Mikeska said Friday night they even had thermal drones surveying the area to track any heat sources.