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Texas now nearly drought-free

Fire danger could increase by summer

After the heaviest rainfall year on record in 2015, the National Weather Service has observed a decline in North Texas precipitation so far in 2016.

The precipitation has been enough to continue to lessen the state's drought, according to a report from the Texas Water Development Board using data from the U.S. Drought Monitor.

There's a "mouse's squeak of drought [in Texas]," the report reads, with 0.1 percent of the state considered to be abnormally dry. That's down by 0.6 percent from a week earlier, 3.9 percent from January and 14.9 percent from a year ago.

The state began to recover from prolonged drought conditions in 2015, and locally 13.45 inches of precipitation has been recorded since Jan. 1. It is 1.55 inches below normal, National Weather Service data shows.

"It is a good thing that we have had all this rain," said Burney Baskett, executive director of the Johnson County Emergency Services District, which coordinates fire response for a majority of Johnson County. "Everything has greened up."

Texas A&M's Keetch-Byram Drought Index, the data source used by most county judges to gauge fire danger, reports a measurement average of 165 on the index for Johnson County, placing the county in the lowest level of fire danger.

That can change quickly with warming temperatures, and if no more precipitation is received, Baskett said.

"There's a lot of grass, vegetation and new growth," he said. "That's good for now, but when it does get dry we'll have that much more fuel load."

Fuel load is a firefighting term for natural matter that has the potential to burn, Baskett said.

"People think everything is green and wet, and it won't burn," he said. "It will burn."

That's a concern as the Memorial Day weekend approaches, and residents are able to purchase fireworks in Johnson County, by order of county commissioners, he said, though the concern is certainly less than it would have been even a year or two ago.

"We are having a few grass fires, but they don't seem to spread real quickly because of the moisture in the vegetation," Baskett said.

He's encouraging residents to take measures to preserve fire safety.

"Everyone should keep their lots mowed and maintained," Baskett said. "Short grass and vegetation won't burn as fast. Keep brush away from structures, and that will help tremendously in case there is a grass fire."

While there's little fire danger now, the 14-day outlook of the Keetch-Byram Drought Index projects growth toward mid-range fire danger in northern and eastern Johnson County. Presently, the highest fire danger areas in the county, according to the Keetch-Byram Drought Index, exists in Burleson.

Burleson Star

327 N.W. Renfro St.
PO Box 909
Burleson, TX 76028-0909

Phone: 817-295-0486
FAX: 817-295-5278



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