TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — It’s dry enough in Travis County right now that the county’s chief fire marshal, Tony Callaway, compared fire danger at the beginning of this summer to that of 2011. That was the year both the Steiner Ranch and Bastrop County fires collectively ripped through hundreds of people’s homes.

Drought conditions have already deteriorated significantly since January across Texas, and if we see a hotter, drier than normal summer, conditions will only get worse.

“It appears that we could be in a repeat of what we saw in the early portions of 2011,” Callaway told Travis County commissioners Tuesday.

Starting at the end of the work week, Callaway said critically low humidity levels mixed with gusty winds will create high fire danger locally. Travis County commissioners voted to continue their burn ban as a result.

Under the ban in unincorporated parts of the county you CANNOT:

  • Burn any combustible material outside of an enclosure which contains all flames and/or sparks
  • Engage in any activity outdoors that could allow flames or sparks that could result in a fire unless done in an enclosure designed to protect the spread of fire

You could face a misdemeanor charge and a fine of up to $500 if you don’t follow the rules. If you live in unincorporated Travis County and would like to get text messages about burn ban status changes, you can sign up for those alerts on Travis County’s website here.

  • Travis County wildfire mitigation officer Will Boettner references his data
  • Shelves of burn ban data sheets in binders
  • Fire Marshal's Office sign with flags blowing in the background

“We will see fires due to accidental causes adjacent to roadways and other areas as we enter into this period where we continue to see humidity levels dipping below 20% in the afternoon time periods,” Callaway said. “Our lack of consistent rainfall throughout the county has transitioned our wildland fuels into critically low moisture levels.”

Callaway noted that the northwest portion of our county was seeing particularly concerning conditions right now.

The Texas A&M Forest Service recommends the following:

  • Within the first 30 feet of your home, use non-flammable landscaping materials. Within the first five feet, water plants, trees and mulch regularly, and consider xeriscaping if you are affected by water restrictions.
  • A healthy, well-maintained landscape is important to the survival of homes during a wildfire. Make sure your plants are carefully spaced, low growing and free of resins, oils and waxes that burn easily.
  • Remove dead vegetation from under the deck of your home and within 10 feet of the house.
  • Prune your trees so that low-hanging branches do not touch the ground.

Most of the western counties in our state are under a burn ban right now. You can find KXAN’s burn ban map here.