EAST TEXAS (KLTV) - Much of East Texas is considered at “high risk” for potentially dangerous wildfires, according to a new map from the Texas A&M Forest Service.
“No burning whatsoever,” said Rusk County Sheriff Jeff Price. “Right now, everything is so dry on the surface that any little spark, any little ember, anything could start a fire. And if there’s a little bit of a breeze, it could get out of hand very quickly.”
And things did get out of hand on Sunday afternoon when a wildfire near Henderson scorched 10 to 15 acres before being contained by firefighters.
“We think it was a previous burn before the burn ban was enacted,” said Michael Searcy, Henderson councilman and Rusk County OEM member. “It stayed underground in the root system and then found another tree to catch back up, and within a few minutes it had spread over a couple of acres.”
Searcy and other officials remember the 2011 fire outbreak across Texas, in which more than 31,000 different fires broke out across the state. Many of those fires happened in Rusk County and kept firefighters busy for weeks.
“It looked like a war zone,” Searcy said. “Plumes of smoke all across the horizon.”
Searcy says this summer, it isn’t that bad, just yet.
“We fear that if it stays as dry as it has been over the next month or two we could get to the level very easily.”
And officials say the only thing that can help is substantial rainfall.
“A lot of people think, well, we just got a good rain down in this part of the county; well, one part of the county might have received an inch, where the rest of the county might have received nothing,” said Patrick Dooley with the Rusk County Office of Emergency Management.
Officials say they’re starting to collect things like bottled water and snacks ahead of any potential outbreaks. You’re encouraged to drop items off on Thursday night at the Central Fire Station in downtown Henderson.