Smoke from prescribed burn could become dense again if conditions are right

Mahlon Hammetter with Texas Forest Service
Mahlon Hammetter with Texas Forest Service

By Morgan Thomas - bio | email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) –  FM 1669 from Huntington to highway 103 has re-opened after being closed early Sunday morning.

TxDot was called to the area around FM 1669 where it intersects with highway 103 east of Lufkin because of very low visibility due to dense smoke.  A controlled or prescribed burn had been completed Saturday afternoon, according to Police Communications Officer Jesse Graves with DPS.

There's many reasons to do a prescribed burn: clear land, burn off underbrush, and they're used to prep a site for planting.  That's what happened on hundreds of acres of land near the intersection of FM 1669 and highway 103.

Mahlon Hammetter is a fire prevention specialist with the Texas Forest Service. He said prescribed burns are like pulling weeds on a much bigger scale.

"Why do you take out the weeds? You take them out because they're competing for nutrients and water, sunlight with your crop plants," said Hammetter.

Prescribed burns usually start with a detailed plan.

"Need to consider wind direction and speed so you know which way the smoke is going or whether it will settle, and try to get that dispersed rather than settling in on the site," said Hammetter.

Unfortunately that's exactly what happened with this burn causing dense smoke around the area.  TxDot decided to close FM 1669 around one in the morning Sunday, reopening it late Sunday morning.

Residents in the area had to find alternate routes or find another place to stay.  Hammetter said it could happen again if the conditions are right.  Smoke tends to settle during the evening and overnight hours because the atmosphere stabilizes.

"During the day, the sun warms up, the ground warms up - the heat rises and air mixes. At night with the cooling on down you don't get that air mixing and you're going to end up seeing in many cases the smoke hovering close to the ground," said Hammetter.

Before the smoke completely cleared, Graves with DPS said smoke moving north toward highway 103 caused poor visibility and was a contributing factor in an accident a little before nine Sunday morning.

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