Despite Rain, Firefighters Fearful for Summer

"From this point on it's going to start drying out."

That's what Assistant Smith County Fire Marshal Oren Hale says about the end of spring.   A time when nature's spigot is usually shut off. What we have when summer arrives is usually what gets East Texas through.

Though the grass is green, it's not the full story.

"Everyone thinks we've had a lot of rain, and we've had rain, but we're still over five inches below normal rainfall levels."

That means volunteer firefighters are already gearing up.... before 100 degree days... before the Fourth of July.  They think grass fires will be everywhere.

"We're looking at a repeat from the 1997 summer when we had all the grass fires," says Winona Volunteer Fire Chief Alan Adams.

Thousands of fires burned in East Texas that year... and everyone was stretched to the limit.

Now they're ready to be at it again.

"We're tuning our pumps up, making sure they're in working order," he says.

Last year could've been much worse, but Oren Hale says since the bad fire years of the late 90s... East Texans become more responsible in how they handle fires they start.

"We've seen a change and we're thankful for that," Hale says.

But it only takes one spark... one match, or one cigarette... for acres to flare up.

And no matter how green it is... it will happen again.