Fires in Texas

Severe fires in Texas

31 December2005

AlabamaHelps With Western Wildfires
Dec 30, 2005, 01:30 AM

Wildfiresin Texas and Oklahoma have killed several people and destroyed hundreds of homes.Alabama’s role in battling the brush fires. Here’s the very latest on the blazesout west. Officials in Texas and Oklahoma are now saying four people have died.The wildfires have burned nearly 200 homes and blackened thousands of acres inthe two states. Today National Guard helicopters from three states were put onstandby in case of flare-ups. It’s intense to say the least. Mayor Ray Purvis ofCross Plains, Texas says, “It’s almost like the air was gonna explode inyour face, it was so hot and the wind was blowing so hard.”

Thesefires have devastated many homes and lives in Texas and Oklahoma. It’soverwhelming for the firefighters there, and Alabama has stepped in to help.Eight fireman from the Alabama Forestry Commission are more than 500 miles awayfrom home tonight. They’re in Lufkin, Texas, fighting the fires. Putting out hotspots, dropping water by air, and walking miles and miles fighting flames…That’s what firefighters are doing in Texas and Oklahoma. Now they’re asking forhelp and getting it from the Alabama Forestry Commission. “And then thisfire here was in Washington state” Chief David McCurry with the Pelham FireDepartment knows what it’s like to be out there. “It’s a big difference,when you’re fightin a fire that started interior of the house, the wildlandnormally starts interior.” Whether it’s New mexico, Utah or Texas, ChiefMcCurry has been fighting forest fires for the last six years. He’s seen it all.McCurry says, “The fires I’ve seen, not been in a lot of timber, been a lotof big fields, and small timber, so the fire’s moving real rapid through theareas, because it’s wind driven.” While he hasn’t been called up yet, he isready to head West if need be. That’s where Bobby Matthews is heading. He’s oneof 8 people with the Alabama Forestry Commission now heading to Texas to helpout. Matthews says, “This is volunteer. They don’t call us up and say youdon’t have to go. Forest Commission asks for volunteers, and so these guys whocome out here and do this kind of stuff, they enjoy it, they do it because theyenjoy it and they want to help.”

Thesefiremen are expected to be home January 13. However, Texas is already requestingmore volunteers to help with the effort. Our state has had 478 wildfires overthe past two months. The average per year is about four thousand.

Source: ©WFSA 12, 30 December2005

A mobilehome engulfed in flames in South Arlington, Texas.

Photo: ©AP / Voice of America

Fires in Southern U.S.A. Image. Caption explains image.

Firesin Southern U.S.A.

Drought,high temperatures, and strong winds combined with holiday fireworks, trashfires, and careless cigarettes to create a disaster in parts of Texas andOklahoma in late December 2005. According to the Associated Press, more than 70fires blazed throughout north and central Texas and Oklahoma, many of them setby people ignoring local fire bans. By December 29, nearly 20,000 acres hadburned in the region, more than 100 homes had been lost, and several people haddied from fire-related injuries.

This image shows parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana, asimaged by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) flying onboard the Aqua satellite. Thesensor took this image on December 28, 2005, the same day that the fires causedthe most damage. Cloud cover obscures part of the region, but hot spots,indicated in red, appear throughout the area, many of them sending up their ownplumes of smoke.

North and central Texas, where most of the fires occurred, saw its fifthdriest year on record in 2005. In the Dallas-Forth Worth area, annual rainfallwas about 41 centimeters (16 inches) below normal. In Oklahoma, the annualrainfall was about 30 centimeters (12 inches) below normal. Shortly before thegrass fires spread throughout the region, local temperatures topped 27 degreesCelsius (80 degrees Fahrenheit) and worsened the already dry conditions. Thewind and heat abated somewhat after the fires started, but the National WeatherService predicted a return of heat and wind right before New Year’s Day of2006. Authorities expressed concern that a fresh round of holiday fireworkscould touch off a fresh round of fires. NASA image created by Jesse Allen, EarthObservatory, using data obtained courtesy of the MODIS Rapid Response team.

Officials see no need for burn ban

By: Jamie Nash and Kassia Micek, TheCourier Onlinestaff

Texas Gov. Rick Perry and The Texas ForestService addressed the wildfire issue Tuesday, as Perry declared a state ofdisaster and the TFS pleaded for public cooperation. However, local officialssaid Montgomery County is more fortunate than many of its neighbors. Accordingto Perry, burn bans have been enacted in 156 counties.

Most of the counties surrounding MontgomeryCounty have enacted burn bans, including Harris, Liberty, Waller and Grimescounties. On Wednesday, the Montgomery County Fire Marshal’s Office determined aban was unnecessary.

Assistant Fire Marshal Scott Burlin saidWednesday morning he and Fire Marshal Jimmy Williams conferred after they eachexamined the county’s number on the Keech-Byram Drought Index. The indexdetermines an area’s potential for forest fire, based on a daily water balance.Numbers on the drought index range from 0 to 800, with 0 representative of nomoisture depletion and 800 marking absolute dryness. The number is determined byexperts at the Texas Forest Service, based on temperature and precipitationinformation from weather stations. Burlin said he and Williams were surprised atthe county’s KDBI number, which was nowhere near the number that prompts arequest for a burn ban. “Our median number is 414, with a high of515,” he said. “It’s not until the numbers reach an average of 550 to600 that we consider a ban necessary.” Burlin said he had no explanationfor why surrounding counties’ conditions were high enough to enact burn bans. Despite KDBI numbers, firefighters were busy Wednesday afternoon with acontrolled burn, which led to a wildfire that destroyed a house near Montgomery,and an enormous brush fire in east county.

The brush fire, near FM 1314, requiredresponses by multiple agencies, including the TFS.
The west county fire started shortly after 4 p.m. on Sharp Road off of FM 149,just north of Montgomery, said Montgomery Fire Department Assistant Chief DonLarson.

“Basically, a controlled burn withconstruction got out of control and consumed an abandoned house and threatened anearby house,” Larson said.

Firefighters were unable to extinguish thenearly seven-acre fire and will have to wait for the blaze to burn itself out,which could take weeks, Larson said. The property owner helped the departmentcontain the inferno by pushing flaming debris into piles and creating a dirtline around the burning debris to keep the fire from spreading. Firefightersalso soaked the perimeter of the property with water as an added precaution.”We’d never be able to put it out because of how deep seeded it is,”Larson said. The property owner will have to keep an eye on the nearly “10huge burn piles” and call the department if the fires get out of control,Larson said. “The cold weather kills the grass, which dries it out; and thehumidity dropped today too, which fueled the fire,” Larson said. The LakeConroe Volunteer Fire Department provided mutual aid to the Montgomery FireDepartment. Ten fire trucks responded to the scene.

One answer for why the county is not undera burn ban and surrounding counties are is because each county government has aset of standards, in addition to data collected by the TFS, it uses to determinewhether a burn ban is warranted, said John Warner, urban district forester withthe Conroe District Office of the Texas Forest Service.

Careless burning is what has caused many ofthe recent fires in the area, Warner said. We are recommending no one do anyoutside burning because it is very dry all over Texas,” said Warner, addingthat fireworks are discouraged and prohibited in most areas.

Although the soil is wet, the debris on topof the soil is very dry and can catch fire quite easily, especially with windsup to 25 mph and low humidity. Some fire trucks have had problems getting stuckin the mud when responding to a fire, Warner said.
“It’s very unusual,” said Warner, who said people think that becausethe soil is wet there isn’t a possibility of a fire.

When a fire starts, people should report itright away, no matter how small, because if people try to put it out bythemselves, the fire usually ends up growing and becoming a bigger problem,Warner said.

To combat the problem, the governor hasdeployed four Texas Army National Guard helicopters as well as two helicoptersfrom the U.S. Forest Service. The helicopters will dip into lakes and otheravailable surface water and transport it to the fire, fighting it from above.Perry also requested and was granted two single-engine air tankers from the U.S.Forest Service to be used in areas with no readily available surface water.Perry also involved other agencies. The Texas Department of Transportation hasbeen called on to provide equipment and assistance. The Texas Department ofPublic Safety is responsible for securing wildfire sites. Help also is comingfrom other states, with Wisconsin and Tennessee sending personnel and equipment.

Despite the assistance from agencies insideand outside of Texas, more help is needed. According to data from the TFS,between Dec. 23 and 26, crews responded to 136 wildfires that burned anestimated 11,669 acres. The number was not finalized because some of the firescontinued to burn when the information was released.

The Forest Service stated that recent fireswere caused not only by carelessness, but also unsafe fireworks use, equipmentsparks and improperly discarded smoking materials.
The TFS stated that fire risk assessment leaders said dangerously dry weatherconditions statewide were likely to continue for sometime. Burlin said hisoffice would continue to regularly check the KBDI to determine when a burn banshould be requested.

Source: © TheCourier Online

31December 2005

Burnban still in effect

By Grace Dudley/Reporter County-City Editor

The Nolan County Commis-sioners’ Court is reminding everyone that a burnban is currently in effect for Nolan County.

Fireworks are included in the ban, therefore it is against the law to setoff any fireworks for New Year’s celebrations.

County Judge Tim Fam-brough said current conditions are very dry and withthe recent major fires in surrounding areas, it is especially important forresidents to follow the burn ban.

“It doesn’t take much to get those things started,” Fam-brough said.

Commissioners’ enacted the 90 day burn ban on Nov. 28. Nolan County hasnot received measurable rainfall.

Wildland fires that caused at least three fatalities and the loss of morethan 100 structures, including 78 homes, and the extreme fire behavior made fora disastrous day across the north central portion of Texas yesterday. Eightnew fires for 13,310 acres started in the area, with an additional 15 fires for493 acres in East Texas.

In Cooke County, the Walnut Bend Fire caused one fatality when ahomeowner was overrun by the fire while trying to wet down her yard. Twentyfour homes were evacuated, and 8 homes were lost.

In Callahan County, the entire town of Cross Plains was under evacuationorder yesterday.  Two fatalities were reported, and as many as 50 homeswere destroyed as well as numerous businesses and at least one church.

Very dense smoke, extreme fire behavior and shortage of resources caseddifficulties, and it was impossible to take action on the head of the fire forsome time yesterday. The placement of resources was concentrated on structureprotection. The loss of 20 homes occurred on a 30-acre fire in Hood County. Propane tank explosions, thick vegetation and poor road access added tocontainment problems.  In addition, fires on the Somerville/Bosque countiesline, as well as in Llano, Gillespie, Tarrant, Tyler and Wise counties wereresponded to by Texas Forest Service. In North Texas, above normal temperaturesand dry weather is expected to continue for the next seven days. There ispotential for additional red flag events Friday over the Southwest quarter ofthe area, then again on Sunday over the far western counties.

Source: ©Sweetwater Reporter,30 December 2005

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