The Randall County Commissioners Court implemented the return of a burn ban as stated in their Tuesday meeting.
According to the court, the ban came as a suggestion from the Randall County Fire Department (RCFD) after seeing a rise in wildfires in the area.
During the meeting, Joe Koch, the RCFD Chief said: "My firemen have been busy for the past couple of days. We've had a fire yesterday (Monday) south of Canyon; Sunday we had three different fires. A couple of them were fairly small, but then we had a large one out towards the east."
According to the fire chief, on the U.S. Drought Monitor, Randall County is currently in between a D1 and D2 rating, meaning the area is in a moderate to severe drought. As of today, Randall County's Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) has an average of 477 KBDI value and a high of 591 KBDI value, with the maximum rating being 800 KBDI, representing absolutely dry conditions. During Tuesday's meeting, the fire chief stated that this dry weather was a result of higher wind speeds drying out the area, leading to a 2% to 3% moisture content and a higher susceptibility to wildfires and their spreading.
The court agreed that with the changing of seasons into fall and the drying of fire fuels, this leaves potential for wildfire danger and approved the fire ban unanimously with a vote of 4-0.
According to the Texas A&M Forest Service (TAMFS), fire analysts say a rise in wildfire activity can be seen across most of Texas this week, including the Western Pineywoods, Southeast and Central Texas.
"By the weekend, the Texas Panhandle may also experience increased wildfire activity in areas where cured grasses are present. Below normal rainfall amounts, low relative humidity and elevated wind speeds will support wildfire activity," a TAMFS news release says.
TAMFS attributes this rise in wildfire danger in the state to an overall lack of rainfall and high temperatures that have dried surface vegetation. Throughout the week, TAMFS firefighters have responded to 65 wildfires, compared to their response to six wildfires during the first week of the month.
Wes Moorehead, Texas A&M Forest Service Fire Chief stated in a news release: “The 2022 fire season has been significant for the state of Texas, as state and local firefighters have responded to more than 9,800 wildfires ... The state received beneficial rainfall mid- to late-August, which helped to significantly slow the operational tempo for wildland firefighters. However, the benefits of that moisture have started to wane, and we are, once again, observing dry conditions across the state that is resulting in increased wildfire activity.”
Across the state, very dry conditions following the weekend’s cold front and multiple days of relative humidity values below 25% have resulted in accelerated drying of vegetation. In addition, wind speeds are forecast to increase to 10-15 mph out of the northeast that, when combined with the dry vegetation, will support wildfire growth. Historically, these high-risk fuels have produced high impact or significant wildfires that threaten public safety and property. Any ignitions that occur may also be resistant to firefighters’ suppression efforts.
In response to the Randall County burn ban and the potential rise in wildfires, Palo Duro Canyon State Park has also implemented a burn ban, as stated Thursday in a Facebook post: "The burn ban for Palo Duro Canyon State Park and Randall County has been re-instated. While we enjoyed the added moisture from the rain we received in August, conditions have dried out over the last couple of weeks. During a burn ban, wood and charcoal fires are prohibited. However, containerized fuel systems with a shutoff valve, like propane, can be used."
As a precaution to these current conditions, TAMFS asks all individuals to consider waiting to conduct any outdoor burning or lighting campfires until conditions improve, including portions of the state that are not currently under a burn ban. TAMFS adds that in Texas, nine out of 10 wildfires are caused by human activity, meaning most wildfires could be prevented by taking simple actions.
Individuals are asked, in case of a fire, to contact their local fire authorities immediately.
For more information about the Randall County burn ban, visit https://www.randallcounty.gov/258/Fire and https://www.randallcounty.gov/DocumentCenter/View/258/Dos-and-Donts-for-Outdoor-Burning-PDF .
For current conditions and wildfire outlook, read the Texas Fire Potential Outlook at https://bit.ly/3kemhbG .
This article originally appeared on Amarillo Globe-News: Randall County implements burn ban after rise in wildfire conditions