Officials brace for severe winter wildfire season
Houston County Courier
As Houston County continues to experience drought condi-tions, severe enough for the county to apply for an emergency disaster declaration, the National Weather Service meterologists and Texas Forest Service officials are bracing for a severe winter wildfire season. A severe winter wildfire season is predicted for Texas, and officials say the public should be aware of the potential threat to their homes and businesses.
National Weather Service meteorologists and Texas Forest Service officials gathered in College Station last week to discuss current drought conditions and what that means for the possibility of winter fire outbreaks. “This was an important meeting,” said Tom Spencer, Texas Forest Service’s predictive services department head. “The work we accomplished will pay huge dividends to both agencies in improved coordination of services as we enter the upcoming winter fire season.” Over at least the next three months, conditions are predicted to remain dry, prompting Texas Forest Service officials to prepare for response.
“This meeting reflects the outstanding partnership be-tween Texas Forest Service and the National Weather Service,” said Mark Stanford, fire operations chief for Texas Forest Service. “Both agencies are clear about their priorities: First and foremost, protect the lives and property of the citizens of Texas from wildland fires. I am very proud to be associated with these fire weather forecasters. They are simply some of the best around.” Last week’s gathering is just one step in the process of preparing for a busy wildfire season, officials said.
“We don’t get a whole lot of time to work shoulder to shoulder, and this is an opportunity for our partner agencies to work together,” said Monte Oaks, fire weather program leader and forecaster with the National Weather Service in San Antonio. Greg Murdoch is one of fewer than 100 incident meteorol-ogists in the country. That means he’s not only certified in fire weather forecasting, but also is trained to work with incident management teams during an emergency. The Midland-based National Weather Service meteorologist said the current La Nina weather pattern is a cause for concern. Murdoch suggested residents should monitor weather predictions on the National Weather Service website and take precautions when winds are high, humidity is low and precipitation is scarce. “When you’re outside, take extreme precaution when using anything that could create a flame – things like tractors, lawn mowers,” he said. “People may be doing seemingly boring things around their house, but they need to use real common sense principles in terms of knowing what’s around your home.” And residents should pay attention to warnings and be prepared to evacuate in extreme conditions, he added. “Being proactive is going to be critical to saving life and property,” Murdoch said.