Watch Your Fire

Much of East Texas is experiencing drought conditions due to below average rainfall totals. For that reason, the Texas Forest Service is reminding hunters and other outdoor fire users in this area to be extremely careful. The mix of dry weather and existing dry vegetation poses a significant risk for accidental wildfires.

Responding to the outbreak of wildfires across the state, Governor Rick Perry has deployed fire fighters, airpower and heavy equipment to affected areas and directed the Governor's division of Emergency Management and the Texas Forest Service to coordinate fire suppression activities to meet the threat.

"This is a critical time for the forests and grasslands, and it's important that people be watchful for wildfires and call local fire authorities as soon as a fire is spotted," says Fred Salinas, Forest Supervisor of the National Forests and Grasslands in Texas. "We need help from our visitors and neighbors in the surrounding communities to ensure that the beautiful forests and grasslands and those on adjacent lands are safe from careless wildfires," he said.

Campers, hunters, and other outdoor users should follow these safety precautions:

* Build campfires in open, level spots away form trees and overhanging branches. Keep fires small and extinguish them cold to the touch before leaving them unattended.

*Avoid using grills over flammable vegetation and leaf litter. Make sure coals and ashes are cold to the touch; then dispose of them properly. Never transport a grill or mobile barbecue pit with live embers.

*Dispose of smoking materials properly, either by using your vehicle ashtray or by crushing smokes and matches dead out in bare mineral soil.

*Avoid parking or driving where dry grass and weeds can come into contact with the hot pollution control equipment under your vehicle.

*Make sure that mufflers on all power equipment are in good working condition.

Texas Forest Service fire fighters have responded to 74 fires burning across more than 17,000 acreas since November 23rd.  Of those, ten are large fires affecting nearly 11,000 acres.

Wildfires currently are burning in Eastland, Montague, Parker, Wichita, Wilbarger and Wise counties.

Persistent drought conditions since spring have left many counties vulnerable to fire.  Burn bans, which are prohibitions against all outdoor burning, have been instituted in 120 counties.  High winds, warm temperatures and unseasonably dry weather have caused severe wild fire danger in Northeast, North and Central Texas.