TYLER, Texas (KETK) – In Smith County, the summer burn ban was dropped last week and even with rain and cool weather approaching East Texas, the Texas A&M Forest Service is reminding people that a fire could spark quickly.
After an extremely dry summer, seven East Texas counties still have a burn ban in place. While most have lifted the bans, some areas could still be dealing with drought conditions.
“Unsafe debris burning is the number one cause of wildfire in Texas,” said Heather Gonzales, the Texas A&M Forest Service program specialist for wildfire prevention.
Rusk County lifted its burn ban last week but as people start burning again, keep conditions around you in mind. “In a deep drought right now, I think we are still at stage three, on the index, close to a four,” said Patrick Dooley, Rusk County, Fire Marshal and Emergency Management Coordinator.
Gonzales also suggested keeping debris piles small and burning in a safe area.
“Away from any structures, overhead structures, like powerlines and tree limbs,” said Gonzales.
Just this past weekend, two out of the three fires Dooley’s crews battled were caused after people left flames burning unattended. “Use a little common sense out there to know that if you’ve got a big enough fire going, don’t leave it, even small fires, don’t leave them, if you do leave them make sure you put them completely out before you go,” said Dooley.
When using a burn barrel, make sure to have it on gravel or dirt and “cover it with a metal screen, with a mesh screen no bigger than ¼ of an inch,” said Gonzales.
The best advice is to always check to see if your county has an active burn ban before starting a fire. “If you don’t have to burn at this point in time, don’t burn,” said Dooley.