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Winter Weather Special: Wildfire Threat Still Lingers

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Jeff Jamison
Jeff is a meteorologist for CBS 11 News. You can watch his fore...
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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – When you think of winter, wildfires usually don’t come to mind. This region has seen more than its share of devastating fires, including the Possum Kingdom Lake area last spring and the Bastrop fire last September.

And despite seeing rain in December, the historic drought still persists.  If there’s a silver lining to the drought, it’s that less grass and foliage grew in 2011.

“It’s still going to be, given the forecasts for dry and windy with the la Nina conditions, a lot of potential for several large fires,” said fire analyst Brad Smith.

It doesn’t matter if you live in the city or in the country; everyone is at risk for wildfires.

“About 80 percent of the fires in Texas happen within two miles of a community,” said Nick Harrison, a wildlife-urban interface forester.

That should be a reminder for all homeowners to be vigilant and take preventative action.

“A lot of times a fire will creep into an area, creep through the dead grass up to the home and then burn it,” said Smith.

Yards usually lie dormant during the winter. Homeowners will want to make sure the grass is cut as short as possible. Also, rake the leaves in the yard. Leaves can be a good fuel source for fires.

Kim Bird with Calloway’s Nursery says don’t forget to trim the hedges and shrubs.

“If you trim your shrubs into more of a tree form and you don’t leave those limbs close to the ground, you’re creating more of a barrier between the flames and your rooftop, which is a good thing,” said Bird.

Unfortunately, there is not an advanced warning system for fire like there is for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. The first warning is actually the smoke.

“If that’s the case, you’re probably directly in the path because the wind blowing it that way, the wind will direct the smoke in the direction the fire grows,” said Smith.

When that happens, get out of the way and let firefighters do their job so that your home doesn’t become the next fire casualty of Texas.

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