East Texas officials warn of increasing wildfire danger

This time last month, many East Texas counties were lifting their burn bans. But, after several weeks of low fire danger, the threat is back.
Published: Sep. 27, 2022 at 6:55 PM CDT
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HENDERSON, Texas (KLTV) - This time last month, many East Texas counties were lifting their burn bans. But, after several weeks of low fire danger, the threat is back. Officials say while this week’s cold front did bring relief from the heat, it also created conditions perfect for fires to get out of control.

“We’ve seen no fires to beginning last Thursday, daily fire responses out in the county,” said Terry Linder, Rusk County Fire Marshal.

Linder said on Monday alone, firefighters responded to five grass fires in southern Rusk County, most of which started with people conducting controlled burns.

“We’re getting to the point to when you have low humidity levels, high winds, and a drying situation where we are — fires quickly spread.”

Sean Dugan with the Texas A&M Forest Service in Henderson said over the last two weeks East Texas has experienced little rain and high temperatures.

“So, that’s where we start seeing really dry fuels and fires that are able to quickly spread and grow,” said Dugan. “While this week’s cold front brought East Texans welcome relief from the summer heat, it also created weather conditions that have significantly increased our wildfire risk. For the past two weeks, East Texas has experienced persistent lack of rain and high temperatures that have steadily dried our forest fuels and increased wildfire ignitions. These dry conditions are now being amplified by gusty winds and low relative humidity values in place from the cold font moving through this week.”

Maps showing changing conditions across the state of Texas.
Maps showing changing conditions across the state of Texas.(Texas A&M Forest Service)

And it’s this increasing threat that has both Dugan and Linder asking folks to be extremely careful when burning or doing other things that could spark a wildfire.

“Anytime you have hot work, welding, cutting with a torch or working on a tractor, make sure you have a fire extinguisher, a handy bucket of water and just be really attentive on these dry and windy days when it comes to outdoor work. Just because you’re not burning doesn’t mean you can’t start a fire,” Linder said.

Wildfire prevention tips from the Texas A&M Forest Service include:

  • Notify authorities as soon as you see smoke or fire so responders can arrive on scene as soon as possible
  • Avoid burning on dry windy days
  • Avoid activities with open flames or sparks
  • If mowing or shredding, avoid contact with rocks or metal objects that could create a spark

For now, most East Texas counties do not have official burn bans in place, although Sabine County in Deep East Texas did issue a ban on Tuesday.