Summer conditions arrive, FDs gearing up

With the weather patterns turning more like a typical Central Texas summer, the increasing temperatures and projected weather trend has area fire departments gearing up for what could be an active wildfire season. In an attempt to be proactive in planning for possible fire outbreaks, the chiefs of the county’s paid and volunteer fire departments have scheduled a meeting to discuss planning and resource allocation. “This is just an idea to get us all together so we are prepared if and when we have issues come up,” said David Huie, chief of the Lohn Volunteer Fire Department. “It is not paranoia, it is simply being prudent in our planning, especially with the potential conditions that are considerably different this year than in years past.” The conditions Huie refers to are the tall grasses that have grown everywhere across the county with the wetter-than-normal summer McCulloch County has seen so far this year. High grasses have taken over the county from rangeland to barrow ditches to vacant lots and even alleys. Daytime temperatures that now reach the upper 90s, coupled with constant winds, will continue to dry out the vegetation, creating extremely hazardous fire conditions. “We are very concerned with places out in the county and places that are weekend homes,” said Huie. “We are really going to work on encouraging folks to take preventative measures to help protect their homes and properties in the event a wildfire gets started. “The possibility of things getting out of hand takes on a whole new meaning when you see the devastation that can happen first hand. I saw it up close and personal last year when I helped fight the fires in Cross Plains that nearly destroyed an entire town.” In talking about the possibility of wildfires in the county, the chiefs have already been evaluating range conditions in various locations. According to Brady Fire Department Chief Randy Rankin, range conditions in the southern portion of the county from the San Saba River south to the Mason County line are already drying out due to the makeup of the soil and the amount of rain that has fallen in that particular portion of the county. “There are places in that part of the county that will burn right now if something happens, and if this current weather pattern continues, within two-to- three weeks, we will be in what could be a very dangerous situation.” The danger comes from the amount of vegetation that serves as fuel that has already grown and is currently in the drying out process. According to Huie, the amount of vegetation has already changed the types and characteristics of those fires that will be reported. Rather than a portion of a pasture that can be controlled with one truck and 1,500 gallons of water, it is likely that the intensity of the flames will require much more water to control considerably less space. The Texas Forest Service (TFS) has information about protecting homes and property from wildfires in Texas. Ranging from property line brush control to basic maintenance, there are a host of activities that can be done to minimize the risks associated with wildfires. According to the TFS, over the last two years, 85 percent of the wildfires in Texas have occurred within two miles of a community’so it’s quickly being understood that wildland fires are not just a problem for rural homeowners. TFS continues to assess the changing needs and situations of the state’s interface areas. Making communities more aware of the threats from interface fires and giving them tools to develop plans to diminish these threats is the goal of the Texas Forest Service. To meet the goal of diminishing the threat of wildfires to homes, a comprehensive Urban Wildland Interface program that focuses on ways to reduce wildfire risk is being developed for the county. Aspects of this program include the best strategies for protecting homes, improvements and natural resources. Details of what can be done locally will be further published as county fire chiefs make the information available. Suggestions for area landowners to minimize property risk include: ‘ Keep brush and grass mowed, especially along fence/property lines. ‘ Maintain a perimeter of at least 50 feet around structures. ‘ Keep lawns watered and green. ‘ If hiring welders to perform work, require extra safety precautions such as spotters and be sure a water source is nearby. ‘For answers to questions about fire prevention, contact the local fire departments at their respective telephone numbers or contact the Brady Fire Department at 597-2311.

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