|Polk County Enterprise - Local News
Stories Added - July 2009
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Polk County part of drought disaster area
Polk County Enterprise - July 2009
LIVINGSTON – Gov. Rick Perry included Polk County in a disaster proclamation for 167 Texas counties in response to the significant threat posed by wildfire conditions. The ongoing extreme heat with only traces of rainfall poses safety risks for all area residents. The Livingston Volunteer Fire Department has handled eight escaped debris fires that apparently were intentionally set by residents in violation of the burn ban. “If people would just call us before they start to burn — like they’re supposed to do at any time so we don’t dispatch fire trucks that aren’t needed — we could prevent some of these calls that take a toll on our firefighters and equipment,” Fire Chief Corky Cochran said.
“If you’re walking on the ground and it feels like you’re walking on Cheerios, that’s a good indication of how serious this is.” LVFD responded to eight calls Monday, some of which were fire alarms and medical emergencies. Shortly before 6 p.m. Monday, firefighters were called out for a second time to a house on FM 1988 where residents said they weren’t aware of the burn ban, despite being previously advised by LVFD and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, LVFD records show. They were called out to FM 350 South Wednesday where business owners had an outdoor debris fire that contained plastics. Just three hours later they were dispatched to 563 Rebel Road in Southland Plantation where residents said they didn’t know how the brush caught fire and threatened outbuildings on the property.
Firefighters also had difficulty getting equipment down the driveway to the fire. It required 14 LVFD firefighters, four trucks as well as crews from the Texas Forest Service, SHECO and PCSO. Eight LVFD firefighters put out an intentionally set debris fire just before Peebles Cemetery on FM 1988 at 10:22 a.m. Thursday that was started in a ditch. Property owners told LVFD they started it there because they didn’t want their yard to burn. At 1:23 p.m. Thursday, a grass fire on Nickerson Road near Putnam’s Landing was contained just inches before it spread to a mobile home. The continuing drought could take a heavy economic toll on local cattle producers, according to AgriLife Extension Agent Mark Currie. If the weather pattern changes soon, he believes ranchers can get in a second hay cutting before winter. “It’s looking critical for grazing and hay production.
We’re gradually grazing ourselves out if we don’t get rain pretty quick,” Currie said. Currie added that some cattle producers have said they will have to start feeding cattle soon unless they get several days of soaking rain. “We make hay in the spring and summer to feed in winter. If we have to start feeding now, that won’t work,” Currie said. “I don’t think I’ve talked to anybody who has made more than one cutting of hay,” Currie said. “The cuttings up to now also have been short.” If this weather pattern would change and move the high pressure off of us and we get some normal rainfall, we can work out of this situation, according to Currie. Hay can grow until October. Currie says ag producers are largely an optimistic group. “We are getting closer to a good rain every day,” Currie said.
Fire Chief Corky Cochran is urging residents not to develop a false sense of security when the first rain showers come. “If we get some rain, that’s not going to fix it. Everything’s so dry it will create some new growth, but everything on top is dead.” “Commissioners will look real closely at how much impact the rain will have on creating new growth that will slow down a grass fire,” Cochran said. The governor’s proclamation allows the state to activate all essential resources, and suspends pertinent rules and regulations that could impede the state’s ability to quickly respond to the constantly changing threat. The proclamation also allows the state to request any necessary federal assistance.
“As continued drought conditions have made the threat of wildfires a reality, the state is assisting in battling these fires, and we will continue to provide the necessary resources to protect our communities,” Gov. Perry said. “I urge all Texans to use extreme care in outdoor activities, be aware of burn bans in their counties, and take precautions to protect their homes and property while these conditions persist.” A high pressure system over the state for the last month has produced a hot and dry pattern, causing consecutive days of triple digit temperatures and a lack of precipitation, and posing a significant fire threat that is expected to continue. As a result of these conditions, burn bans have been issued in 152 counties. Since June 25, more than 10,000 acres have been burned by wildfires across the state, with nearly 150 homes threatened. State agencies and organizations including the American Red Cross, Texas Forest Service, Texas Military Forces and Texas AgriLife Extension Service have responded to the fires. To view the governor’s disaster proclamation, please visit
http:// g o v e r n o r. s t a t e . t x . u s / n e w s / proclamation/13324/