AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Today marks the official start of fireworks sales on the High Plains, and with that comes increased potential for wildfires.
“People will purchase fireworks and they just don’t realize how quickly those fireworks can cause a fire,” said Randall County Fire Marshal Troy Ducheneaux. “They use those fireworks in the city limits of Amarillo, which is illegal to do, to possess or even discharge fireworks. And they’re putting those fireworks in areas where structures and other receptive fuels are readily available. So, the heat danger becomes increased.”
The area has seen a good amount of rain over the last few months, with over nine inches of rain falling up to now. But recently, the High Plains have been on a hot streak, with temperatures reaching the triple digits just within the last few days. This is the time of year, Fire Marshal Ducheneaux said, when fire danger risk can increase.
“The region that we’re in, we get our monsoonal flows right around that late May, early June area,” he said. “We’ve exited out of that now. Now, we’re getting into our summer drying trends, and we’re gonna see extended periods of lack of rain, hotter temperatures, and just lack of any type of good monsoonal flows that bring in any type of chance of moisture.”
The Texas A&M Forest Service measures the area’s fire danger in any given season through Fire Potential, which, according to its website, is defined as “the resultant descriptor of the combination of both constant and variable factors which affect the initiation, spread and difficulty of control of wildfires on an area.”
“Fire Potential is measured through the dryness of our fuels,” said TAMFS Wildland Urban Interface Coordinator James DeGrazier. “What’s available to burn in a burning index, as well as our significant fire danger. It’s compounded with the actual weather forecast.”
DeGrazier said they know people will gather and celebrate during the summer for events like July 4th weekend. They even encourage it. But while they want people to enjoy themselves and have a good time, they also want them to do it safely.
“What we’re saying is, just use common sense when it comes to using anything that could ignite a fire or fuel source,” he said. “Keeping that in mind, it’s also important to have some sort of fire suppression handy, whether that’s a fire extinguisher, a bucket of water, or a shovel and sand.”
Right now we’re in the wettest month of the season, KAMR Chief Meteorologist John Harris said. So far, the area has seen 9.3 inches of rain. The normal amount is 8.52 inches. Often times, it’s not so much that people aren’t concerned about wildfire danger, it’s just not on their minds.
“A lot of times, people just don’t think about it,” Harris said. “A tornado warning, people think about, bad weather coming in, they get ready for it, they prepare for it. They do something to protect themselves. But on a windy, dry day, it’s sunny outside in the morning. Your mind is elsewhere, and not thinking about the threat of a wildfire.”
July 4th is next weekend. Whether you’re celebrating Independence Day by barbecuing, popping fireworks (legally), camping, or hunting, in any case, Harris said, be careful.
“Please use extreme caution, be cognizant of the fact that your celebration could cause somebody’s land to go completely up in flames,” he said. “Be mindful of that, be respectful of your neighbors.”