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Officials stress safety during wildfire season

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By Chris Edwards
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TYLER COUNTY – The extreme heat of the summer season coupled with drought conditions have, at press time, put 213 of Texas’s 254 counties under burn bans. Tyler County is one of those counties.

Last week, firefighters from several regional volunteer fire departments, along with the Texas Forest Service were dispatched to a location on County Road 3900, off of Recreational Road 255 on Tuesday, to battle a blaze, right after a wildfire had affected more than 3,000 acres in the same area, breaking out the prior week.

During the battling of the blaze, aircraft were called in and began dropping water on the fire. In the efforts, outgoing Emergency Management Coordinator Ken Jobe said around 300 firefighters helped put out the blaze, which affected about 207.4 acres.

County Judge Milton Powers thanked the many agencies that assisted, and the Tyler County Sheriff’s Office, which handled the evacuation protocol for the area.

As of Tuesday, the preceding wildfire, the Shearwood Creek Fire, which began in the Ebenezer Community and eventually crossed the county line into Tyler County, was 95% contained, having affected 3,562 acres.

To date, it is the second most destructive wildfire of this season in the state. A game preserve fire in Walker County, which was 70% contained, affected 4,428 acres.

Despite reported rainfall on Sunday, the county is still under a burn ban. Jobe said in order for the county’s burn ban to be lifted, rainfall would have to be one to two inches per day for two or three days, countywide.

The county’s Emergency Management Office goes by the Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) Scale, which is utilized as a standard by the U.S. Forest Service to measure drought conditions.

It references the dryness of the soil and duff layers, and increases for each day without rainfall, but decreases with rainfall.

A news release from the state’s Forest Service stated that on Monday, the Forest Service responded to 15 new requests for assistance on wildfires, which burned up 3,192 acres, statewide.

Actions such as parking or idling in tall, dry grass can spark a fire, as catalytic converters can ignite the grass under the vehicle. Additionally, TFS warns that many outdoor activities, including welding, grinding and mowing can produce sparks that might ignite nearby, dry vegetation.

The Forest Service urges all Texans at this time to protect Texas and prevent wildfires. TFS encourages all Texans to follow these tips to keep safe during wildfire season:
• Monitor local burn bans and other restrictions.

• Monitor local weather conditions and fire activity. Heed warnings from local emergency officials.

• Build “GO” kits with the five “P’s”: People and pet supplies; prescriptions; papers; personal needs; priceless items.

• Create defensible space to help your home survive a wildfire, and to provide safer access for firefighters.

• Report any fires or suspicious activity you see, by calling 9-1-1. Early detection is critical and can help firefighters respond quicker.

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