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Firefighters Brace For Potentially Destructive Summer

By Susy Solis, CBS 11 News
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FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Several brush fires had already erupted before the unofficial start to summer: Memorial Day. For firefighters the dry conditions are coming too soon.

“The drought index is starting to creep up and it’s kind of early this year, even for that, so concerns are there and we are keeping a close eye on it,” said David Toler, assistant fire marshal for Collin County.

Just last week a brush fire was sparked in Denton County, burning more than 600 acres and shut down 2 airport runways at DFW International Airport.

Over the weekend, two more brush fires popped up in Collin County, one near Blue Ridge and the other near Nevada. Both were contained and extinguished within an hour and half with the help of more than a dozen fire departments.

A significant amount of spring ran helped North Texas begin to recover from last year’s devastating drought, sprouting new growth of vegetation. But hot temperatures and little to no moisture in the past few weeks has caused the vegetation to dry up sooner that usual, making it a potential fire hazard, according to Randy Renois, Fire Marshall for Tarrant County.

The Texas Department of Transportation has been mowing dry grass along the embankments of busy highways hoping to remove what may soon become fuel for fires.

Drought conditions still exist for much of the state, according to the Texas Forest Service. There has been consistent wildfire activity state-wide, but the number of fires still hasn’t surpassed what the state saw last year. However, if dry conditions continue, that could change.

The Texas Forest Service cites the number one cause of wildfires in Texas is escaped debris and urges people to use caution when grilling outdoors or setting campground fires.

Meanwhile, fire marshals say they only they can do is be prepared for the worst and make sure fire departments are doing their due diligence.

“Training, make sure they know how to work these fires and how to contain them as quick as they can,” said Toler.

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