Erath County is not currently under a burn ban, but the Texas A&M Forest Service has ranked the county's fire danger as “moderate.”
Just last week several units — Erath, Morgan Mill, Lipan, Lingleville, Huckabay and Texas A&M Forest Service — battled a large grass fire that burned approximately 139 acres of land between Morgan Mill and Lipan.
“It was about the same size as Fambro (Ranch) fire in April,” said ECVFR Coordinator Chris Brooks. “What I was told was that there were some guys working on a fence and the wind was blowing in their face and some stuff hit the ground and they didn’t know anything was going on.”
The Erath County Volunteer Fire Rescue has responded to about 120 fires this year so far, 18 of those taking place since Sept. 1.
But the one that occurred last week is one of the largest fires the county has seen.
Although there were no homes involved in that fire, there are ways homeowners can take precautions — especially those who live in rural areas — which includes maintaining their yard, using fire resistant materials around the home and improving access for first responders.
According to the Keetch-Byram Drought Index, Erath County is now in the 400-500 range, which states, “Wildfire intensity begins to increase significantly. Wildfires will readily burn and larger fuels could burn or smolder for several days.”
However, Brooks said he wouldn’t use the term “wildfire” for what he has seen in this area.
“I think wildfire would be on a big, big scale, California-style,” he said. “Thousands of acres and no way to get to it or start putting it out.”
Stephenville is currently four inches behind last year’s rainfall total but only 2.40 inches of rain in September, 1.80 inches in October and 1.80 inches so far in November, according to resident Dean Jones who keeps tabs on local rainfall.
Besides a lack of rain, low humidity and strong winds can create a recipe for disaster when it comes to burning.
“People burn every day no matter what — especially when you’re not under a burn ban you can’t tell them not to — but it’s just a matter of what they’re going to pay attention to and not leaving it unattended," Brooks said. "If you start it, stay with it and make sure someone has eyes on it all the time.”
Brooks wants the community to know that they should call if they have concerns about a fire, don’t wait.
“I’d rather get half-way there three times a day than have to go spend two days out somewhere,” he said.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, between Jan. 1-Nov. 6 of this year there have been 52,699 wildfires burning around 8.8 million acres ranking higher than the 10-year average.
Texas is ranked No. 2 in the most wildfire prone states this year with California ranked at No. 1.
In 2016, Texas was ranked No. 1 with 9,300 wildfires in the state.