Prescribed burns smoke up East Texas

By Holley Nees - bio | email

HOUSTON COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - It is hard not to notice the smoke blanketing the skies over of much of East Texas.  The U.S. Forest Service has been conducting controlled burns,  but said they are doing it to keep East Texas beautiful.

"We like to burn fairly often.  Historically there was probably a period of two to three years between fires and we try to mimic nature and do that same periodic burn," said Bobi Stiles, Fire Management Officer for Davy Crockett National Forest.

She said they also burn to keep endangered animals around a little longer, plus it cuts back on unwanted debris.

"When Hurricane Ike came through it put a lot of extra debris on the ground and that extra debris on the ground increases the fuel loading which leads, could lead to more catastrophic wildfires," Stiles said.

The U.S. Forest Service said these burns have to be done in order to keep East Texas looking like it does, so many East Texans put up with it.

"Smoke's bad to anybody, especially if you [have] allergies, but they do a pretty good job and it doesn't last very long," said Bill Thompson, a landowner near one of the control burns.

The Forest Service said there are reasons why they can burn even at times when you should not.

Stiles said, "The homeowner has...probably the homeowner and maybe a garden hose.  The Forest Service has a lot of equipment."

Federal land is excluded from burn bans, so when dozers, engines, and helicopters top the equipment list, stiles said you are a lot safer.

"It's just something that's got to be done," Thompson said.

So East Texans may have to wait a little longer to breathe easier when the smoke clears.

The U.S. Forest Service said although they try to warn as many people as they can about the burns, they cannot control the weather and sometimes it makes the smoke stay in the air just a little longer.

They do plan on having several more burns, but they do not have a specific schedule on when that will happen because it all depends on the weather.