Cook-outs and campfires will be a part of many people's Memorial Day holiday weekend celebrations. But, officials are urging everyone to do so safely. On Memorial Day weekend last year, the Texas Forest Service and local fire departments responded to 363 fires that burned almost 18,000 acres.
Officials say, while recent rainfall has brought some relief to many areas, much of the state is still experiencing some level of drought.
"We still have a lot of dead fuels and vegetation from last year," said Terry Richardson, a resource specialist with the Texas Forsest Service. "Of course the green grass just grows on top of it so a lot of people just see that green grass and say, 'Okay, it's safe to burn,' when it's really not."
There are 86 burn bans across the state, but currently none of the East Texas counties are under a burn ban. Still, officials hope people will follow some simple guidelines to prevent fires this holiday weekend. They include keeping debris at least 10 feet away from a campfire or grill, completely extenguishing a pitt when it's no longer in use, and keeping water nearby in case of an emergency.
The Texas Forest Service also recently unveiled the "Texas Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal" or TXWRAP. It uses mapping technology to allow homeowners and the general public to scrutinize areas up to within a two mile radius of where they live to spot places where wildfires might erupt. It also offers guidance on how best to respond to fires. For more information, visit www.texaswildfirerisk.com.