Southeast Texas wildfire risk and activity increasing

LIVINGSTON TX, (Press release) - Due to extremely dry conditions, increasing wildfire occurrence and the presence of hurricane debris in southeast Texas, the Texas Forest Service has shifted some fire crews from wetter areas of the state to this region. The agency also has mobilized up a helicopter to the region to assist with wildfire suppression and structure protection.

Already in May, Texas Forest Service fire crews in southeast Texas have battled 39 wildfires that burned 296 acres. TFS firefighters attributed 15 of the wildfires to escaped debris burning and 14 to arson.

A recent fuel dryness map produced by the state forestry and rural firefighting agency shows most vegetation in southeast Texas as either critically or extremely dry. An accompanying fire danger graphic shows fire danger within this region as either high or very high.

The underlying fuel dryness is slow to change without a significant rainfall event and provides the potential for significant fires, according to Brad Smith, fire behavior analyst with the Texas Forest Service.

The daily weather as measured by fire danger controls the level of significant fire potential (low, moderate, high) on any given day, said Smith. Fires in southeast Texas that get established in pine timber fuels containing a significant component of yaupon in the under story brush will be very resistant to control due to high surface fire intensities, single and group tree torching, and spotting.

"In any year, the fuel types across the landscape of southeast Texas present many challenges to wild land firefighters and fire managers," Smith stated. "It is my opinion that the wild land fuel modifications brought by Hurricane Ike will definitely increase the resultant severity of wildfires in the area. Fuel dryness will certainly drive the severity of the fire activity in southeast Texas for a considerable period."

Southeast Texas residents especially need to use increased caution with all outdoor fire and equipment use, suggested Kenneth Myrow, dispatcher with the TFS in Livingston.

"Before starting any outdoor fire, residents should check to make sure that outdoor burning is allowed.," Myrow advised. "Some counties have implemented bans on outdoor burning."

Asked how bad wildfire conditions are in southeast Texas, Myrow responded, "It's dry; it's very dry!"

For more information contact:

Mahlon Hammetter - Lufkin

936-546-1895 cell

936-639-8162 office

Jan Amen - Lufkin


936-639-8105 office