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Denton County Judge Andy Eads issued a burn ban on July 13 in the wake of multiple excessive heat warnings and the drought plaguing the area.
Texas A&M Forest Services, an agency that conserves Texas forests and delivers wildfire response and protection through the Texas Wildfire Protection Plan, has measured 16 wildfires, with five in North Texas counties. There have been 11 grass fires and no wildfires in Denton county as of publication.
“Although grass fires have increased, we haven’t seen a dramatic number of large fires or anything yet,” Denton County Fire Marshal Brad Sebastian said. “Most of these have been small fires that are put out within minutes or under an hour.”
The order issued explained provisions for outdoor cooking and open hot work, and states people who knowingly violate the ban will be charged with a Class C misdemeanor and or a fine of up to $500,000.
“[With the] high winds and the low humidity, there’s dead and dormant vegetation,” Sebastian said. “All [of] that has contributed to fires, so with the chance of these being destructive fires we decided a burn ban needed to be put in place.”
TAMFS State Fire Prevention Coordinator Karen Stafford addressed how people can prevent wildfires and how to prepare for potential disasters.
“There are a lot of things homeowners can do to prepare for wildfires,” Safford said. “First and foremost is [to] be aware of your local conditions around you. Also, familiarize yourself with any local restrictions that may be in place such as burn bans. Third, just be very careful with any type of outdoor activity right now that could create heat or sparks because right now, it’s taking hardly anything to start a wildfire.”
Currently, 215 of 254 counties in Texas have implemented burn bans, Safford said.
Allison Prater, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service center in Fort Worth said high heat and dry climate can contribute to wildfires.
“So generally, with the higher heat or the higher temperatures and the dry conditions it allows those fuels [in the ground] to dry up and so they are not getting the moisture,” Prater said. “So, when something sparks, it’ll start a fire and [with] the amount of fuels that are available and dried, it makes it easy for [a] fire to spread.”
Climate change is one of many factors that contribute to wildfires, Prater said.
“Denton County, for the most part, is in a moderate to severe drought, […]” Prater said. “We are also looking at still being in a La Niña pattern that looks to be going until the end of the year. We are in the pattern of being warmer, we are in the pattern of being drier [and] we do have the drought conditions.”
July temperatures in Denton in previous years had a daily average of 100.3, 95, 95.5 and 93.5 from 2018 to 2021, respectively. Denton County currently ranks 703 out of 800 on the Keetch-Byram Drought Index, a scale used to measure forest fire potential.
Sebastian noted that many wildfires are human-caused and everyone can do their part to prevent fires and stay safe.
“If you smoke, put the cigarette out in your car – don’t throw it out […], service your car at normal intervals so that it’s in top shape,” Sebastian said. “If everyone does their part, we will have a lot less fires. Everyone needs to do their part to help control this. Other than that, we just do what we can do [and] pray for rain.”
Featured Image: Firetruck E17 and ambulance 6 rest at Station 6 on Feb. 27, 2022. Photo by Matt Iaia