Fire marshals say rising temperatures and low humidity could result in burn bans

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Updated: Aug. 17, 2019 at 4:05 PM CDT
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EAST TEXAS (KTRE) - As the trend of hot temperatures and dry weather continues, fire marshals are trying to decide if burn bans might be necessary. Many counties in East Texas still haven’t had a burn ban declared, but officials say that is likely to change.

“We get reports from both the ESDs, all the fire departments in the area as to the amount of grass fires that we’re seeing.”

Fire Marshal Jay Brooks is preparing to present data on recent fire and drought conditions to Smith County commissioners next week. He says the information he provides helps the court decide whether or not to declare a burn ban.

“It’s something that we watch real closely," Brooks said. "Right now, I don’t anticipate that it’s something that would be needed. Ultimately, that’s up to the commissioner’s court.”

However, he says he’s seeing trends that Smith County should take note of.

“We are seeing an increase in the number of fires," Brooks said. "A lot of them are being started by unattended controlled burns if you will. So that becomes a primary indicator.”

Karen Stafford with Texas A&M Forest Service provides similar data to commissioners in Angelina County. She and Brooks say they’ve noticed another trend that can contribute to more fires.

“We are starting to dry out and it has been a long time now since we’ve had a decent amount of rainfall,” Stafford said.

“That usually corresponds with an increase in what’s called the Keetch Byram Drought Index,” Brooks added.

“That’s a numerical rating that’s assigned to counties. It’s a combination of looking at the precipitation combined with the soil moisture, and it’s a good indication of expected fire potential,” Stafford said.

If this trend continues, Lufkin Deputy Fire Marshal Wade Modisette says, bans could be on the way.

“With this much heat and as little rain we’ve had, it wouldn’t take but a week or two to really get us in trouble,” Modisette said.

Stafford also says fire activity from western counties could make its way into East Texas.

“We are having that heightened fire activity from other parts of the state, so I expect it will be coming our way soon for those larger fires,” Stafford said.

“At this point, where we’re at, I would urge the public to use extreme caution," Brooks said. "If you’re doing any outdoor burning, if you don’t need to burn, don’t burn, and if you are gonna burn just make sure you have a water hose and stay with your fires.”

The Texas A&M Forest Service has a digital map that shows which counties are under a burn ban. You can find the map on their website

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