Despite scattered thunderstorms on Tuesday night, wildfire danger remains high as temperatures are expected to climb back up past the century mark this week.
The Texas Forest Service's daily fire danger map on Wednesday placed Somervell County under "moderate" risk after the rain and higher humidity moved in.
However, the Keetch-Byram Drought Index, which the service also uses to gauge dryness and potential fire risk, continues to show the county is the high range of between 600 and 700.
Wildfires broke out last weekend in neighboring counties as high temperatures and winds dried out grass, dead limbs and other fuel on the ground.
On Monday, firefighters from Somervell County, the Texas Forest Service and volunteer fire departments from area communities such as Morgan battled a blaze in Bosque County several miles north of Walnut Springs. The fire was along State Highway 144.
County Fire Marshall and Emergency Management Coordinator Dwayne Griffin said it was the first blaze he had responded to since he and Somervell firefighters were dispatched to Palo Pinto County during its massive wildfires.
The fire was contained as fire crews cut through the brush and battled the blaze. Authorities said it began when a vehicle had a blowout and sparks ignited dry grass and cedar. But, fortunately, the flames didn't get to the tops of tall trees or it might have been a worse situation.
“Where it was situated was down in a hole,” Griffin said. “It didn't get a lot of wind. If it had crested and gotten into the tops of trees, it would have gotten away from us.”
On Saturday about 300 acres were scorched in a wildfire near County Road 397 in Erath County. The Texas Forest Service dispatched a helicopter to fight the fire from air. Then on Sunday, a 275-acre blaze broke out near Patillo. Officials said that likely was started by a lightning strike.
An unrelated incident also kept Somervell County Fire Department on Saturday successfully rescued two people from Squaw Creek Reservoir after their boat capsized. The department used its newest rescue boat in the incident.
Meanwhile, the Texas Forest Service said that almost 2,000 homes and buildings across the state have been destroyed by wildfire since the fire season began last November.
“There is high probability of a wildfire breaking out if a spark occurs,” said Justice Jones, the service's prevention coordinator, in a statement.
“We're seeing critical weather conditions and high winds that are causing these wildfires to spread rapidly,” Jones added. “Firefighters need the support of Texans to prevent new fire starts during this extremely hot and dry summer.”
Because of the high risk of fire, anyone who sees any outdoor burning is asked to call 911. Somervell County remains under a burn ban. Only 27 Texas counties, most of them in East Texas along the Red River, do not have burn bans in place.
Last week County Judge Mike Ford also declared a local disaster and Somervell County Commissioners voted unanimously to prohibit “sticks and fins” fireworks in the county as the July 4 holiday weekend approaches. Ford asked Gov. Rick Perry to authorized an extension of broader fireworks restrictions.
Under the commissioners’ order, no person may sell, detonate, ignite or use fireworks classified as “skyrockets with sticks” and “missiles with fins” in any unincorporated area of the county.
The order does not prohibit “large fireworks devices designed primarily to produce visible or audible effects by combustion, deflagration or detonation,” which includes fireworks displays such as the one planned for July 3 by the Glen Rose/Somervell County Chamber of Commerce.
Those fireworks, which will be handled by professionals, will be set off over Wheeler Branch Reservoir. See the related story in this week's Community section to learn how to view that fireworks display.