(KXAN) — The recent rainy weather may lead some to think this year’s wildfire danger is low, but experts say our risk is actually higher than normal.
Will Boettner with the Travis County Fire Marshal’s Office explains that “a really wet spring has created a massive amount of fuel that we normally don’t have. Instead of having your scattered wildflower patches and then over a couple months things come up – they’re all up right now.”
This spring’s rainfall has led to a thriving wildlife season with plenty of green around the Austin metro, but a hot summer and a surplus of burnable vegetation created, in part, by the February deep freeze leads to the concern of more fuel for future fires.
“We’ve gone from having fine fuels, and very scattered fine fuels underneath the trees to having a whole bunch of tree branches and other things that can burn like a campfire,” Boettner said.
Historic wildfires in Central Texas have actually changed the way the Fire Marshal’s Office evaluates fire danger with predictions shifting from a seasonal approach to a weekly, even daily fire forecast.
Experts at the Fire Marshal’s Office assess the region’s fire risk by sampling the area’s Juniper trees every two weeks. They evaluate the moisture content in the Juniper samples, using the value as a barometer of the larger fuels.
“When it’s above 80%, the cedar trees or juniper trees don’t want to burn. When it’s below 80%, they will catch fire, and they will burn like a torch,” Boettner said.
With the possibility of a busy fire season ahead of us, fire officials remind homeowners to do their part in mitigating the risk.
“If you want to as completely proof against wildfires as you can, do these things: clean your gutters out, make sure there’s no leaves on your roof, let’s say you shrubbery planted right next to your dining room window always look at whatever you have planted next to your house and imaging it’s twice as tall when it’s on fire.”