Somervell County firefighters remained on alert throughout the Labor Day weekend as eight grass or brush fires broke out between last Thursday and Monday.
One of the county fires near Chalk Mountain burned several acres on Saturday. Two structures were threatened and saved. "Hot spots" continued to smolder and firefighters checked on the fire throughout the weekend.
Somervell County fared much better than other parts of the state. A 14,000-acre fire in Bastrop County east of Austin destroyed hundreds of homes and formed a 16-mile wall of flames and smoke. Two people, a 20-year-old mother and her child, died when the fast-moving blaze consumed their trailer home, authorities said.
Of Texas' 254 counties, 251 are under burn bans.
The combination of dry conditions and brisk winds, as well as many travelers on Texas roads for the holiday weekend, prompted the Texas Forest Service and Texas Department of Public Safety to issue several alerts that wildfires remained "an extreme danger" across the state.
Drivers should never drive into dense smoke, the DPS advised.
The Texas Forest Service pointed out that 80 percent of wildfires occur within two miles of residential neighborhoods and suburbs. Thus, advance planning is essential.
County Emergency Management Coordinator Dwayne Griffin said that landscape designs can make a big difference in home fire protection.
"The further flammable vegetation is kept from the structure, the higher its chances of survival," Griffin posted on the emergency management Facebook page.
"The existence of space within the home ignition zone interrupts a fire's path."
Griffin also advises residents to create a "fire-free" area next the structure by removing all flammable items there.
Then check the area within 30 feet of the structure to see that plants are pruned, the area is well-watered and fertilized and fire-resistant species of plants are there.
"These plants should have a high moisture content and include dwarfs, deciduous, grasses and ground covers," Griffin said.
The Texas Forest Service said Texans should take these precautions when weather conditions make wildfires more likely:
* Keep firefighting tools handy, such as: ladder long enough to reach the roof, shovel, rake and buckets.
* Place connected garden hoses on all sides of the house for emergency use.
* Know all emergency exits from your house.
* Learn all routes leading out of your neighborhood.
As fires actually approach, take the following actions:
* Park your car facing the direction of escape.
* Shut off gas at the meter. Only a qualified professional can safely turn the gas back on.
* Turn off propane tanks.
* Place combustible patio furniture inside.
* Seal vents with pre-cut plywood or commercial seals.
* Wet down or remove shrubs within 15 feet of your residence.
* Place lawn sprinklers on roof and near above-ground fuel tanks. Wet down the roof.
* Close windows, vents, doors, blinds and non-combustible window coverings. Remove flammable drapes and curtains.
* Close interior doors and windows to prevent drafts.
For more information on fire danger and advisories, see the Texas Forest Service Web site at: http://texasforestservice.tamu.edu