COPY-Wildfires keeping area firefighters busy

EAST TEXAS (KTRE) - Fire departments across East Texas are staying busy with responding to multiple wildfires.  Just this afternoon, Central Volunteer firefighters were called to a grass fire along Highway 69 north, about a mile south of Highway 7 East.

Passing motorists spotted the fire and called emergency crews for help.  Several motorists stopped to fight the fire, stomping the flames and using shirts to try to keep it controlled until firefighters from Central could arrive.

The Central volunteers got there just as the fire had crossed a fence dividing the shoulder of the highway and a nearby pasture.  Firefighters quickly extinguished the flames.  Firefighters believe a discarded burning cigarette likely thrown out of a passing vehicle is probably to blame for the fire.

Low humidity and dry vegetation on the surface causes fires to burn hot and fast, even if the ground is wet.  When the relative humidity is below 30 percent, even a small amount of wind can cause the fire to spread quickly.  In East Texas much cooler and drier air continues to build into the region ahead of a strong area of high pressure that will shift southeast.  This will result in minimum relative humidity to fall to 20 - 25 percent this afternoon.  Temperatures and RH will continue a moderating trend Friday through the weekend. Shower and thunderstorm chances will increase Sunday night and Monday as a strong upper level storm system moves across the Southern Plains.

Chief Meteorologist Brad Hlozek will have your complete East Texas Forecast, along with your seven day outlook on KTRE's East Texas News.  You can also get timely weather coverage anytime at

According to the Texas Forest Service, people and their activities cause more than 90 percent of all wildfires in the state.  Careless debris burning (of household trash, brush and leaf piles, garden spots, etc.) results in the largest number of human-caused wildfires. Other significant wildfire causes include sparks from welding and grinding equipment, carelessly discarded smoking materials, hot vehicle pollution control equipment and arson.

Fire safety tips for rural residents:

  • Create a defensible space of at least 30 feet around your house and outbuildings; closely mow lawns and trees should be pruned and spaced widely apart.
  • Establish fuel breaks along roadways and between buildings and fields or woodlands.
  • Keep mufflers and spark arresters on agricultural equipment in proper working order and watch out for rocks and metal when bush hogging or mowing.
  • Monitor hay-baling operations closely, dry hay can ignite within the baler.
  • Watch out for sparks when using welding equipment to build fences or repair equipment.
  • Avoid driving or parking vehicles in grassy areas where tall, dry grass comes into contact with hot pollution control equipment under vehicles.
  • Postpone outdoor burning until your area greens up, check with local fire department to determine if ban on outdoor burning have been lifted.

When debris burning is allowed, establish wide control lines down to bare mineral soil prior to lighting your fire.  Burn trash in a burn barrel or other fire-safe receptacle covered with a wire mesh or gird that will help contain burning debris.  Stay with your fire until it is out.