National icon Smokey Bear turned 79 today and Texas A&M Forest Service — along with City of New Braunfels officials — is warning the public to avoid activities that could spark wildfires as gusty winds and low humidity combine with already elevated fire dangers to create critical fire-weather conditions.
“With increased wildfire activity across Texas, Smokey Bear’s wildfire prevention message proves to be just as important now as it was 79 years ago,” said Karen Stafford, the Forest Service’s Prevention Program coordinator.
New Braunfels officials advise residents and visitors to be extremely cautious with fire and to be aware that roadside fires have been a major cause of wildfires in Texas this summer.
Forecasters with the U.S. National Weather Service Austin-San Antonio have issued Red Flag Warnings for Comal and Guadalupe counties. Very high fire danger is expected over the next few days thanks to increased wind speeds of 15mph or more and continued triple-digit temperatures.
Those conditions, combined with very dry grass and other vegetation, can easily result in wildfires, city officials said on Facebook.
With that in mind, drivers are advised to avoid parking, driving, or idling in dry grass and to watch for vehicles pulling trailers or boats with tow chains or other metal objects that strike the road causing sparks.
For information on how families can stay prepared for emergencies and disasters like wildfires, visit www.newbraunfels.gov/disasterprep
For more information about summer wildfire prevention, visit https://tfsweb.tamu.edu/summerwildfires/.
According to the Forest Service, nine out of 10 wildfires are human-caused. In Texas last year, 96 percent of all reported wildfires were started by humans and their activities, Stafford said.
Comal County is under a burn ban. Brush fires, campfires, burn barrels, fire pits (rings) or other open flames are not allowed at this time. Only barbecue pits that are off the ground and have a lid to contain all sparks and flames can be used for cooking purposes only.
Texas A&M Forest Service and the U.S. National Weather Service Austin-San Antonio remind the public to:
- Park in designated spaces and avoid driving over and/or parking on dry grass. The heat from a vehicle can easily ignite the grass.
- Ensure chains are properly connected when pulling a trailer. Dragging them on the ground can create sparks.
- Report suspicious behavior or signs of arson to local authorities.
- Contact local authorities immediately if a wildfire is spotted. A quick response can save lives and property.
- • Never throw lit cigarettes on the ground and keep ashes in a metal container with a tight lid.
- Keep grills or smokers on gravel or paved surfaces.
- Have water stored nearby when using grills, smokers, etc.
- Maintain vehicle brakes and tires
- Mow lawns early in the morning and when it’s not windy or excessively dry.
As Smokey has preached since 1944: “Remember, only you can prevent forest fires.”