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January 23, 2014

January stands as county's driest month

Gainesville — High winds, low humidity and plentiful vegetation have helped fuel wildfires and kept area firefighters busy.

January is — on average — the driest month of the year, and Cooke County Emergency Management Coordinator Ray Fletcher said it’s also prime time for wildfires.

“Winter-cured fuels, dormant grasses, low humidity and high winds are a recipe for large fires to start,” Fletcher said.

Although some fires begin along area roadways, Fletcher said many of the county’s recent fires have been the result of outdoor burns which got out of control.

“People think since it’s cool outside they can start a fire and then leave,” Fletcher said. “If you’re going to light a fire, stay with it until it is out. And if residents need to put water on (outdoor fires), they should make sure no embers remain,” he said.

Fletcher said the average January rainfall is two inches.

“January is a transition month,” he said. “We have a lot of cold fronts which arrive with no moisture behind them. These fronts, in fact, dry things out even more.”

Last spring was a different story.

Significant rains in early 2013, helped quell the potential for wildfires during the blistering summer months.

Now all that tall, dry grass has created a tinderbox, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.

The Forest Service noted the potential for wild fires is especially significant in the western plains regions of the state including the grassy areas west of a Wichita Falls to Abilene to San Angelo line. Strong winds over this area could increase the chance of wildfires spreading.

“The concern is on dry and windy days,” Tom Spencer, predictive services department head at Texas A&M Forest Service said in a  news release.  “A fire could start and spread quickly in these dry grasses, damaging anything in its path.”

The forest service provides tips for preventing wildfires. They include:

• Check for and obey any local burn bans.

For more information about daily fire weather forecasts and an updated fire danger map visit the Texas Interagency Coordination Center web page at texasforestservice.tamu.edu.

 

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