2018-02-07 / Featured

Grass fire consumes more than 100 acres

By Jeff Valcher
Wilson County News

Fire crews from Floresville and Poth race to catch the edge of a Jan. 31 fire north of Poth that burned approximately 105 acres. 
MIKE MZYK/Contributor Fire crews from Floresville and Poth race to catch the edge of a Jan. 31 fire north of Poth that burned approximately 105 acres. MIKE MZYK/Contributor POTH — A grass fire north of Poth consumed more than 100 acres last Wednesday, before emergency personnel from four cities were able to stop it.

Firefighters from Poth, Stockdale, Floresville, and La Vernia were dispatched to an out-of-control blaze on F.M 427 near Kotara Lane Jan. 31 at 2 p.m. The group narrowly prevented the quickly spreading flames from reaching a house and a barn, although a water well and several fence posts were destroyed, according to Stockdale Fire Chief Edwin Baker.

The fire was caused by a welder on a trailer, Baker said. Firefighters were still burning off several high-risk areas late into the afternoon as a precautionary measure against the blaze restarting. Approximately 105 acres went up in flames.

Such fires have been a common occurrence this winter. Stockdale Volunteer Fire Department members responded to approximately 50 calls last month, according to Baker.

“Some people brush off grass fires as no big deal,” said La Vernia fire Chief Chris Thompson. “But we’re out there for hours, and it ties up resources that could be used for other emergencies.”

His department responded to 16 brush fires in January. Concerning dealing with potential wildfire situations, he urged people to pay attention to the wind and weather, not only in the present moment but what is forecast for later in the day.

The risk of wildfires has risen around the state as drought conditions continue. Low humidity levels combined with high, ungrazed grasses from a rainy growing season make for a potentially volatile mix.

“There’s still a high risk of fire, even with grazing,” Baker said. “Until the winter weeds break through the dry stuff, we’re still in extreme fire conditions.”

The National Weather Service issued red-flag warnings of threatening wildfire conditions to more than 60 Texas counties as of Jan. 30. A burn ban has been in place in Wilson County since Dec. 11, 2017.

To check the current burn ban status, click the “Burn Ban” link on the home page of the Wilson County News website.

Drought and fire facts

•The U.S. Drought Monitor shows that 85.5 percent of Texas is “abnormally dry,” up from 20 percent three months ago.

•The Amarillo International Airport has recorded 109 consecutive days of no measurable precipitation as of Jan. 30 — its longest run since a 75- day dry spell in 1957.

•A wildfire in Motley County near Lubbock burned almost 6,000 acres last month. A fire there in 2011 burned 41,000 acres and involved 16 volunteer fire departments.

•The most catastrophic wildfire in Texas history was the Bastrop County Complex Fire, which started on Sept. 4, 2011. This devastating blaze killed two people and destroyed 1,673 homes. It wasn’t officially declared controlled until Oct. 10.

•The worst wildfire in U.S. history was the Great Peshtigo Fire in Wisconsin and Michigan in 1871. Approximately 3.8 million acres were burned, killing at least 1,500 people. It was reported that the fire was so hot that people taking refuge in rivers were boiled to death.

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