Continue to watch for wildfire activity this winter

A La Niña weather pattern continues to keep most of Texas warm and dry as we head into the new year. Those warmer, drier conditions also carry an increased risk for wildfire activity, according to Texas A&M Forest Service (TFS).

Recent rainfall has slowed or improved drought expansion in East Texas and the High Plains, but much of the western portion of the state continues to see extreme and exceptional drought.

Residents should stay informed of local burn bans and fire weather forecasts, since wildfire danger remains high, according to TFS Predictive Services Department Head Brad Smith.

“Most wildland fires this time of year occur just before or just after a frontal passage,” Smith said. “These fronts often pass through with little precipitation, but they do bring increased wind before and after the front passes. These increased winds can help to spread fire in a landscape that is full of freeze-cured grasses.”

After the holidays, many Texans burn gift boxes, wrapping paper and Christmas trees. But one wayward spark can lead to devastating wildfire activity.

TFS experts recommend chipping Christmas trees to use for landscaping mulch, or the trunk could be cut into small pieces for pathway edging. Trees and tissue paper are also good compost materials, while wrapping paper and gift boxes may be recyclable.

Fireworks are another area of concern during the holiday season. Always check for local restrictions on fireworks and burn bans prior to any planned fireworks celebration. Fireworks should be used outdoors on flat surfaces and away from dry grass or other flammable materials, according to TFS. A water source should always be nearby in case of accidental fire.

If a wildfire is suspected, contact local authorities immediately or dial 911, TFS said. A fast response can save human and animal lives and property.

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