HOUSTON (FinalCall.com) – Wildfires have burned more than three million acres in the Lone Star State, the most ever in its history.
The outbreak forced law enforcement to evacuate 1,800 homes and businesses in multiple counties and the present statewide drought could present more danger.
“For the next two weeks it doesn’t look promising for any rain at all. If we don’t get anything now and we go into September with less than two inches, it’s going to be bad. We’re just so critically dry,” said Texas Forest Service Spokeswoman April Saginor.
This is the most acreage destroyed by fires since the Forest Service started keeping records in 1985. The previous record was set in 2006, when fires charred 1.98 million acres and took the lives of 13 people. In all of 2010, nearly 300,000 acresburned.
“This is an unusual year for us. We’ve surpassed three million acres. This is the first time that’s happened since we’ve kept records. I think we’ll have critical days throughout the summer,” Ms. Saginor said.
According to the Forest Service, over 12,000 fires have been reported since fire season started back in November. The agency this year has responded to six of the 10 largest fires in state history. The state’s annual budget for battling wildfires is $15.5 million but has already spent over $126 million, reported Ms. Saginor.
The exceptional drought is gripping many areas, including the country’s fourth largest city. Houston is experiencing its hottest June ever and has gone a record 150 plus consecutive days since the last half-inch rainfall. On June 22, residents got excited to see scattered showers but it wasn’t enough to halt the drought.
“If this pattern continues we’re going to have a dreadful summer. It’s so hot that people are scared to throw cigarette butts into the grass because it could set off a fire with all of this dry grass,” Marshall Wilson, who resides in Northeast Houston, told The Final Call.
For residents in Harris County and nearby counties, their Fourth of July celebration will not be the same this year. The Commissioners Court ratified a declaration of a local drought disaster and banned the sale and use of fireworks for the next 90 days. Violators will be fined and face possible jail time.
“Guess I won’t be popping fire crackers with my boys this year. But you know it is serious down here in Texas when they banning something we would consider harmless. However, from the look of these wildfires, a fire cracker could turn in a disaster. Texas must be getting punished for something,” said Mr. Wilson.