Houston area could be at risk for wildfires

April 11, 2011 10:02:34 AM PDT
Hot and dry conditions, along with high winds, are putting firefighters under pressure as they face wildfire after wildfire in parts of Texas, but what is the risk like locally? People with the Texas Forest Service said Sunday was the single worst fire day the state has ever seen.

Firefighters from 25 states were called in to help put out the blazes, but they had difficulty getting a handle on the fires because of high winds.

Most of the major fires were out in west Texas as of Sunday night. The largest has burned more than 71,000 acres.

The fire danger is not limited to western areas of the state, however. The risk is high throughout Texas, including locally. Although none of the wildfires are here, the Texas Forest Service is keeping close watch.

Some residents are being watchful as well. Jeannine Varela is one of many Montgomery County homeowners keeping a close eye on the conditions outside. She lives near Jacobs Reserve where conditions are both dry and windy.

"We have a lot of trees and brush, so it could go up in quite a quick time," Varela said.

"Any little spark can turn into a major fire catastrophe," said Ray Uballe, a resource specialist with the Texas Forest Service. "Every day that goes on without moisture, it's just going to get even worse."

Officials are encouraging people in rural areas to refrain from lighting campfires and burning garbage or leaves.

"Right now, messing with any kind of fire can actually get away from you with these high winds," Uballe said.

With the entire state of Texas under severe drought, resources from fire personnel to bulldozer crews are being brought in from Alabama, Arizona and New Mexico.

Uballe said they are preparing for the likelihood of more incidents, and he suggests that people who live in wooded or rural areas should prepare as well.

"Be aware that it could happen, and if it does, just evacuate and get out," Uballe said.

Evacuation is something Varela has already thought out.

"We will load everything up and head out," she said.

There was no burn ban in effect for Harris County as of Sunday night, but we could see more burn bans enacted throughout the state in the days to come.

Stay with Eyewitness News and abc13.com for the latest on the wildfires and the drought. We'll also bring you updates on Facebook and Twitter.

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