Local firefighters, residents on alert after wildfire

April 22, 2011 10:00:00 PM PDT
Firefighters across the area are on alert with the state under drought conditions.

The winds picked up this weekend, meaning any spark could grow into a large fire. Almost all of the counties in our area are under burn bans.

To put it in perspective, there has not been a drought like this in this part of east Texas since 1917. And as plants and trees whither in an abnormally hot April, the danger of fire increases. One neighborhood in south Montgomery County learned that Saturday.

In the shadow of The Woodlands is an area where land is measured not in lots, but acres. Where horses and livestock still graze against a backdrop of forest. But as the drought drags on, those woods and soaring trees present a risk to all who live nearby.

"Especially the Yupon Holly. That acts as ladder fuel which carries it up into the trees and you end up with the most intense kind of fire, being crown fire," Lexie Maxwell with the Texas Forest Service explained.

Around noon Saturday, the warning became reality.

Behind several homes on White Oak Trail, homeowners smelled something burning, which led them to a fire about to threaten their houses.

"We assumed it was barbecue pits or something like that. Then we started seeing some ashes, so we ran about 450 feet back in the woods. How big was it at that point? I'd say about 120 feet wide," homeowner Chris Collins said.

Three homes were ordered evacuated. The Collins family took their dog, papers and pictures and waited while a small army of firefighters attacked the fire with backhoes. From the air, helicopters dropped 250 gallons of water at a time. Before the day was over, 17 acres were burned.

It's not scary now because they got it under control, but I was definitely worried," Collins said.

It is said to have been the third fire in recent weeks in this part of Montgomery County. Conditions worsen with each day that doesn't bring rain

The cause of the fires in Montgomery County remains under investigation.

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