Amid dry conditions, fires destroy two North Texas homes

Amid dry conditions, fires destroy two North Texas homes

22 Dezember 2010

published by

USA — Fire destroyed a house in southern Wise County and one in eastern Johnson County on Wednesday afternoon and threatened several other residences, a day after Gov. Rick Perry issued a wildfire disaster proclamation for most of the state.

No injuries were reported in either fire.

Although rain is in the forecast for Friday, it won’t dramatically improve drought conditions in the long term, according to the National Weather Service.

The U.S. Drought Monitor at the University of Nebraska has released a national map showing that Texas is again facing a drought with 85 percent of the state abnormally dry or worse. The map indicates that Tarrant County falls under the abnormally dry category.

In Johnson County, a vacant house in the 4500 block of Chisholm Trail burned as flames spread over about 10 acres, a dispatcher said.

The fire call came in about 1 p.m., and it took about four hours to extinguish the blaze, the dispatcher said.

In Wise County, firefighters from eight departments worked to put out fire that burned about 15 acres of grassland, also starting about 1 p.m. Wednesday, said Marc Dodd, the county fire marshal. At least five members of a family got out of their home in the 100 block of County Road 4793 safely before fire destroyed it, a dispatcher said.

The blaze appeared to have started as a trash fire that got out of control, Dodd said. The person who left the fire unattended — investigators are trying to figure out who that was — may face criminal charges that carry a maximum sentence of two years in prison and a $10,000 fine, Dodd said.

Dangerous conditions

Perry issued the wildfire-threat disaster proclamation Tuesday for 244 of the state’s 254 counties, including all of North Texas. According to the proclamation, the governor authorized “all necessary measures, both public and private, … to be implemented to meet that threat.”

Commissioners of Denton, Johnson, Parker and Tarrant counties have imposed burn bans.

In Wise County, outdoor burning has been banned on days for which the weather service has issued a red-flag warnings, which are posted when humidity is low, wind speeds are high and fuel sources are sufficient to increase the danger of fires to critical levels.

A red-flag warning was not issued Wednesday because the wind speed did not reach the required level, according to a weather service meteorologist.

However, that’s a meteorological technicality, and the fire danger is real, Daniel Huckaby said.

“It’s been a while since we’ve had rain,” Huckaby said. “People may not realize that in other parts of the country, fires start when it’s hot. Our fire season is when it’s cold.”

Tropical Storm Hermine can be blamed for some of the problem this year, he said. All that rain in September caused an extra spurt of vegetation, which later dried out and went dormant when freezing temperatures arrived.

“When new growth occurs late in the growing season, it’s a big problem,” Huckaby said. Lots of dormant vegetation is fuel for fires, he said.

Parker County Fire Marshal Shawn Scott said the county has had numerous grass fires.

“I cannot emphasize enough the need to avoid the use of combustibles and to strictly follow the conditions set forth in the burn ban,” Scott said.

“No one wants to the see their holidays ruined by fire, so I urge everyone to avoid all outdoor burning or activities that could lead to a fire.”

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