Conservation Matters June 2014

The Texas Land, Water and Wildlife Connection

Wildfire season forecast: Moderately active

By Sara Carney

Wildfire season forecast: Moderately active

In recent years, severe Texas wildfires have made national headlines, increasing wildfire awareness and concern throughout Texas. With the exception of some significant wildfire events in the Panhandle, this year’s winter/spring fire season was moderately active across the state, and the upcoming season is expected to follow a similar pattern, according to Tom Spencer, head of Texas A&M Forest Service Predictive Services.

Spencer said the majority of Texas experiences two fire seasons: one that typically runs from January to April and another from mid-July to mid-September. The exception to this is the Trans-Pecos region, which has one fire season in the late spring to early summer.

Predictions for the summer/fall fire season are often based on the amount of rainfall in May and June — the wettest months in Texas.

”If June delivers like May has, then that could have a positive impact on reducing the potential severity of the summer fire season,” he said.

Years in which these months are fairly dry, such as in 2011, are often followed by an active fire season. “May was pretty kind to Texas this year,” Spencer said, “It brought significant rain to some of the drier areas of the state.”

Droughts can lead to increased wildfire activity. Although Texas has seen an increase in rain in recent months, Spencer said it is important to remember that recovery can be a slow process. “It’s taken us a long time to get into this drought, and it’s going to take a while to get out of this drought,” he said.

The majority of fires are caused by human activities. “Where we have people and fuel, that’s where we get most of the fires,” Spencer said.

He also said people should pay attention to outdoor activities, especially under conditions that have a greater potential for fire formation and when a burn ban is in effect. Spencer recommends that rural landowners take additional precautions to protect their property, such as constructing fire breaks to keep fires from spreading.

The Texas A&M Forest Service’s website offers a number of educational resources including a wildfire risk assessment tool that maps wildfire risk across Texas.

The Texas A&M Forest Service recommends these tips to prevent wildfires.

  • Do not burn trash or debris when conditions are dry or windy. Unsafe burning of leaves, brush, household trash and other debris is the number one cause of wildfires in Texas.
  • Obey outdoor burning bans.
  • The most common cause of wildfires is humans: Careless debris burning, unattended campfires, dumping hot charcoal or hot ashes, parking or driving in dry grass, dragging chains on the road and welding can all cause fires.
  • Remove combustible materials away from your house.
  • Be sure your family has a plan for evacuation. Part of your plan should include gathering important documents and prescription medicines and determine where you will go if you must evacuate. 

Although much is learned each season about prevention and protection from wildfires, it is still important to remain cautious and stay informed. “The weather reserves the right to change or do what it wants,” Spencer said.

If you would like to hear more about the upcoming wildfire season, see this video.

For additional information and to stay up to date on wildfire conditions, visit the Texas A&M Forest Service website at texasforestservice.tamu.edu.

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