Fire safety urged ahead of potential ‘historic’ season for South Plains region
LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - While the region braces for unbelievably low temperatures, officials are also preparing for the fire season that could result from the weather conditions that have plagued the South Plains.
“About this time, beginning of February, [the active fire season] starts getting kicked off,” Texas A&M Forest Service Task Force Coordinator Paige Purvis said. “We’re not quite running as many fires, but they’re starting. Cold fronts are coming in and those are also big events for us. Any prefrontal or postfrontal conditions always bring those winds, which can increase the fire danger. We’ll staff extra hours. Now, usually the February timeframe, we will be here basically 24/7 until the fires die off again.”
The La Niña climate pattern, which produces dry and hotter conditions, is being blamed for the drought in the area. Experts fear this will produce an active fire season, as well.
“It does look like it could be a pretty significant season,” NWS Lubbock Warning Coordination Meteorologist Jody James said. “We are in the La Niña year. Historically, the number of acres burned in La Niña years, those are typically dry, really go up exponentially across Texas and especially West Texas.”
The National Weather Service is participating in a Fire Weather Awareness Week on social media to encourage residents to prepare and plan in the event a fire sparks near you and so you don’t spark one either.
“It’s time for folks to be prepared, to have a plan and just be alert, especially on those days where we have high winds and low humidity, and consequently a very high fire danger,” James said.
Purvis told KCBD this region’s Forest Service team is making its own preparations to assist the 54 local fire departments in its 15 counties. On Monday the staff went to shifts of 14 days on and 1 day off through the next few months. More machinery has been brought in, as well.
“We have three dozers as well as two engines that we can run on this whole region,” Purvis said. “Right now, we’re planning on having those additional resources in here, at least through March or April.”
Purvis said their outlooks for the fire season have used the word “historic.” While recent snow and rain events have prevented the drought from reaching levels seen in 2011, the most recent destructive season, she urges citizens to take precautions.
“More than anything, if you can, make a plan,” Purvis said. “Know that if there is a fire coming to your area, know where you’re going to go. Have kind of a go-bag set in case you have to evacuate very quickly. Have a plan with your immediate family members because sometimes, if it is a really big fire, cellphones aren’t going to work and you’re going to need to have a meeting spot for that.”
To find more fire safety resources, click here or call the local Texas A&M Forest Service office at 806-855-4520.
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