A simple spark can start a wildfire

By Jena Johnson - bio | email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - This summer heat and drought is causing firefighters to work overtime. Several grass and roadside fires over the weekend leave Angelina County volunteer firefighters on edge.

David Lewing, 14, mows lawns during the summer. Right now, the grass is so arid, he said even a lawn mower could kindle a flame. "It will take out a lot of neighborhoods and a bunch of trees, so it's really dry," said Lewing.

"The green grass will even burn right now," said Jerry LaSalle, Huntington Fire Department chief.

Ashes take the place of green grass from Saturday's roadside fire. LaSalle tells KTRE it doesn't take much to provoke a fire. "You can have just a small ember left and when the temperature goes up and the humidity drops, which is about midday," said LaSalle. He said that's when the fire danger starts.

"Unfortunately it's very easy to get out of hand right now because of that dryness that we've had here, we're having a lot more fires that are getting just from surface fires and going on up into the tree crowns," said Mahlon Hammetter, Texas Forest Service Fire Prevention Specialist.

The East Texas area is so dry that even throwing out one cigarette butt could spark a fire. "We encourage people to keep their smokes inside the car, use the ash try and not just throw them out the window," said Hammatter.

Lewing said if you're going to crank up the mower, do so with caution. "If like you're pouring in gas, you usually want to use a funnel because if you spill it over the place and some spark goes somewhere it's going to start another fire," he said.

Firefighters said since Angelina County is under a burn ban, that should cut-down on some of the number of fires we see.

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