By CHRIS AGEE
Authorities warn an extended drought, which prompted Palo Pinto County’s ongoing burn ban, poses significant risks for outdoor fires.
County Fire Marshal Buddy Harwell explained drought levels were not severe enough to ban fireworks, which will go on sale at area retailers Friday, but he urges users to exhibit great caution.
“Don’t shoot them toward unplowed fields or high grassy areas,” he said, “and make sure kids are supervised at all times. When winds are really high, we encourage them not to discharge them on that particular day.”
He reminded residents a level one burn ban is in effect throughout the county.
“You can have a small camp fire for warmth, cooking or celebration,” he said, though it must remain smaller than 3 square feet and attended at all times.
“You cannot burn household trash,” he said, “no mattresses or junk out there, no large brush piles.”
Any resident who notices a fire should immediately call 911 to mobilize first responders, he said.
According to information from Texas A&M Forest Service officials, current weather conditions can significantly increase the chance of a wildfire.
Justice Jones, the agency’s wildland urban interface coordinator, said dry, windy conditions and low humidity can cause fires to rapidly spread and can occur virtually anywhere in the state.
“Any time the state experiences dry periods with strong, gusty winds, the threat of wildfire will increase and extra caution is encouraged to avoid devastating wildfires,” Jones added.
Texas A&M Forest Service suggested residents take several precautions during the winter drought.
Residents should always obey burn bans and fireworks restrictions and keep any outdoor fires, even when permitted, small and constantly attended. No fires should ever be lit on windy days.
The agency’s list of tips also includes keeping water nearby whenever the possibility of a fire exists and using extreme care when handling any fireworks.
Fireworks users should take precautions such as reading and following instructions carefully, staying away from dry vegetation, using fireworks only with adult supervision and never near buildings.
Holiday decorations, including gift wrap and boxes, should be recycled when possible and, if burned, should be placed in an appropriate fireproof container and topped with a metal screen or grill.
The agency recommends disposing of Christmas trees shortly after the holidays, suggesting the trees can be ground into mulch or provide shelter for wildlife.
The National Weather Service has issued a hazardous weather outlook for much of North Texas, including Mineral Wells, until Monday. The report calls for critical fire weather conditions today.