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Fire Risk Is High in Comal County Due to Drought, Triple-Digit Temperatures

Comal County ESD No. 3 (Canyon Lake Fire/EMS) assisted Blanco Volunteer Fire Department Aug. 19 in extinguishing a working brush fire off Ranch Road 3232. Canyon Lake's fire team is part of the Texas Instrastate Fire Mutual Aid System (TIFMAS) maintained by Texas A&M Forest Service.

Unless it starts to rain this week — heavily — Canyon Lake remains at high risk for brush fires over the Labor Day weekend.

Comal County Fire Marshal Kory Klabunde said today’s Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) is 682, which is very high. Every 100 points of the KBDI is roughly equivalent to an inch of dry soil depth.

On Monday, a builder who was cutting rebar with a grinder while building a foundation sparked a “decent-size fire.”

Comal County is under a burn ban, but “hot work” like welding or cutting is allowed. Klabunde warns anyone who is working outside to be extremely cautious.

Under burn-ban restrictions, no open flames are allowed outdoors – including trash burning, campfires and torches, among others. Residents may use a barbecue pit with an open flame for cooking purposes only if the grill has a lid and is set off the ground. Welders are encouraged to use a spotter for any outdoor welding and to keep a water source nearby.

Forest Service Warns of Brush Fires

Last week, Texas A&M Forest Service warned of the possibility of brush fires west of I-35 from Fort Worth to San Antonio as triple-digit temperatures increased the rate of drying in vegetation. Warnings are updated every Thursday.

With critically dry fuels, it does not take much change in fire weather conditions, such as increased wind speeds, low humidity levels and extreme temperatures to cause more fires to occur, the forest service said in a statement. These wildfires also may be more resistant to firefighters’ suppression efforts.

Even after periods of short-duration rainfall, underlying drought and temperatures forecast over 100 degrees allow vegetation to lose moisture at a high rate and rebound back to be critically dry, according to Luke Kanclerz, a fire analyst with Texas A&M Forest Service.

“Texas A&M encourages the public to be diligent with all outdoor activities especially in dry areas as we move into this holiday weekend.” —Erin O’Connor, public information officer, Texas A&M Forest Service

Prevention and Mitigation

“Texas A&M encourages the public to be diligent with all outdoor activities especially in dry areas as we move into this holiday weekend,” said Erin O’Connor, a public information officer with the Texas A&M Forest Service.

Brush fires are seldom caused by cigarette butts carelessly tossed from cars.

“That’s actually uncommon,” she said. “It’s things that people aren’t always aware of when they’re just going about their day, but when it’s really hot and dry with the wind, that can create a problem.”

More common sources of fires are burning of debris and overheated cars. When drivers pull over to the side of the road and park in tall, dry grass, their cars’ catalytic converters can spark fires.

Outdoor enthusiasts and hunters are asked to use caution in the field and be mindful of activities that may cause a wildfire:

  • Avoid shooting near tall, dry grass or rocks and avoid using full-metal jacket or tracer ammunition.
  • Maintain off-road vehicles and avoid parking and idling over dry vegetation.
  • If towing a trailer, secure safety chains and ensure they will not come in contact with the road as that can create sparks.
  • Always check with local officials for burn bans or other outdoor burning restrictions. Comal County is under a burn ban. Click here for more information.

Texas Fires Burn 7,619 Acres in Just One Week

Earlier this month, state and local resources responded to 90 fires that burned 7,619 acres in Texas. These included many large, multi-day fires like the still-smoldering Comanche Creek Fire in Blanco County that burned 406 acres. Fire suppression aircraft logged 117 hours of flight time, dropping 31,620 gallons of water and 31,800 gallons of retardant on multiple fires including the Comanche Creek Fire in Blanco County, the Owens fire in Reagan County, the 8889 fire in Ward County, and the North Coats fire in Crockett County.

Since Jan. 1, state and local resources have responded to 3,913 fires that have burned 194,969 acres. Aviation resources have flown 1,950 hours, dropping 1,926,747 gallons of water and retardant on Texas wildfires.

O’Connor said many of these recent wildfires have been attributed to human activities such as equipment use and debris burning.

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