Thursday, September 29, 2011
Collin County burn ban extended 90 days
Strong winds, along with the expected warmer temperatures, increase the potential for fires.
Most people in Collin County are aware of the wildfires that have burned hundreds of thousands of acres in various parts of Texas.
What they may not be aware of is that more than 200 grass fires have been fought in Collin County in the last nine weeks. However, no single grass fire in the county has destroyed more than about 200 acres and no homes have been destroyed and no fatalities have occurred because of the fires.
"That is due to the quick work of our firefighters," said Collin County Fire Marshal Michael Smith, who Wednesday announced a 90-day extension to the current outdoor burn ban. "Those guys are absolutely amazing."
Smith said that in addition to firefighters quickly responding to grass fires, firefighters from three local fire departments in Collin County, instead of just one, are now responding to all grass fire calls.
"If it turns out that only one fire department is needed, the others can be turned around," Smith said.
He emphasized how much credit belongs to the firefighters who have faced both the heat of the sun and the heat from the fires while wearing heavy gear.
He also said how important it is for people to abide by the outdoor burn ban and to report any outdoor fires immediately.
"Be cautious," he said, "and if you see a fire, don't just assume that someone else has already called it in."
Smith said the origin of one of the fires that burned about 200 acres in Collin County was tracked to a cigarette butt on the side of a road.
The tiny amounts of rain Collin County received earlier this month was not the proverbial drop in the bucket needed to end the drought and fire dangers.
"We need at least 15 inches of rain to end the drought," Smith said.
"We desperately need rain and a lot of it," he said. "The National Weather Service reports that we could see above average temperatures through the fall and winter months, bringing in severe fire danger concerns. We're asking folks to be extra careful about fire safety right now. A small fire could spread rapidly with the dry weather and ground conditions that we have right now."
Cracks in some grasslands in Collin County have been found to be as wide as 10 or 12 inches and very deep, Smith said.
"One little boy stepped in a crack, and his leg went all the way down before his father pulled him out," he said. "Another man put a yardstick all the way down into a crack and it never touched bottom."
Smith also said weather forecasters are expecting stronger winds than usual over the next few months. The winds, along with the expected warmer temperatures, increase the potential for fires.
The Collin County fire marshal is in charge of determining when a ban on outdoor burning is required in unincorporated areas of the county. Residents living inside a city's limits should contact municipal officials or fire departments about restrictions regarding outdoor burning in their city.
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