Heavy rainfall lowers odds for massive wildfires this year

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Last summer's severe drought conditions led to countless wildfires in Texas. Heavy rainfall, already this year, leads fire officials expecting the Pineywoods to catch a break.

"Expect a normal fire season in East Texas this summer, which would be limited in scope," said Fire Chief Mark Stanford of the Texas Forest Service.

For the past few days, the rain has helped the area to hold low conditions for wildfires.

"It's continued to come at about a five to seven day period, which has helped to improve the soil moisture conditions," said Tom Spencer, Department Head of Predictive Services of the Texas Forest Service.

Since January, officials say East Texas has received 19.8 inches of rainfall. That's a sharp contrast to last year's 8.45 inches.

"Hopefully, the steady rains will continue into the summer months, and our fire season won't be quite as bad. If the fuels stay damp, the fires don't come," said Fire Prevention Specialist, Jan Amen, of the Texas Forest Service.

This comes as good news for firefighters across the state. Last summer, millions of dollars were spent battling blazes.

"The 340 days of the 2011 fire season across the state, over 300 million dollars was spent," said Stanford.

With a less active fire season, Bobby Cranford, Assistant Fire Chief of Fuller Springs Volunteer Fire Department, hopes to have more time to recoup from last year.

"It'll help us be able to get our equipment back in shape and ready because most of our fire equipment is like riding a go-kart. You work on it for two days and use it. For every hour you use it, you wind up working on it for two hours," said Cranford.

As long as the rain keeps coming, forest officials predict the Pineywoods will be spared from the devastation it saw last year.

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