Fort Worth

Careful with those fireworks: Wildfire threat returns just in time for the Fourth

The conditions are right for another bad wildfire season in North Texas

High temperatures and lack of rain are building up to a dangerous season for grass fires and wildfires. The Tarrant County fire marshal plans to ask for a burn ban.
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High temperatures and lack of rain are building up to a dangerous season for grass fires and wildfires. The Tarrant County fire marshal plans to ask for a burn ban.

In January, a fast-moving wildfire brought rush-hour traffic to a standstill on Interstates 20 and 30 and threatened the brand-new Walsh development in far west Fort Worth.

Could North Texas be close to seeing those threats return?

If Monday is any indication, the answer is a resounding yes as wildfires began popping up in the western portions of the region.

On Tuesday, Johnson, Hood and Parker counties issued emergency disaster declarations specifically banning the use of fireworks until Friday morning.

West and southwest of Fort Worth, grass fires started popping up Monday fueled by triple digit temperatures and low humidity.

In Palo Pinto County, an 800-acre wildfire had soared to 2,000 acres after starting Monday afternoon west of Palo Pinto forcing the closure of U.S. 180 as it jumped the highway. It was only 10 percent contained on Tuesday morning, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service..

Another grass 50-acre fire broke out at the 101 Ranch. That is the same ranch where a 6,555-acre wildfire started near Possum Kingdom Lake in August 2011. But that fire was 95 percent contained, the Forest Service said.

At 5:12 p.m Monday., a grass fire was reported near the Granbury Airport and moved quickly before being brought under control about 7 p.m.

“I’m very worried,” said Hood County Sheriff Roger Deeds. “It’s so hot and so dry just about anything can start a fire. I’m worried what could happen over the next few days with the Fourth and all of the fireworks.”

In Palo Pinto County, a 50-acre grass fire broke out at the 101 Ranch. That is the same ranch where a 6,555-acre wildfire started near Possum Kingdom Lake in August 2011.

A second fire also started Monday afternoon in Palo Pinto County, south of U.S. 180 and west of the town of Palo Pinto. The fire moved northward, forcing the closure of the highway.

A wildfire rages off U.S, 180 two miles west of Palo Pinto on Monday, July 2, 2018. The video was shot by Graford volunteer firefighter Paul Castillo.

Closer to home, small grass fires popped up across North Texas over the weekend. One, in far south Fort Worth, burned about 30 acres in the 6300 block of Alta Mesa Boulevard.

Wildfire season 002
A grass fire consumed 32 acres in southwest Fort Worth Sunday. Fire marshals say high temperatures and lack of rain are making conditions very dangerous for wildfires. Rodger Mallison rmallison@star-telegram.com

Without rain, it's only going to get worse as the summer heat continues, Tarrant County Fire Marshal Randy Renois said.

"If it doesn't rain, I suspect we're headed back to 2011 when we saw the Bastrop Fire outside of Austin and the PK fire at Possum Kingdom Lake," Renois said. "Our conditions are starting to get like that."



Last week, the Conner Fire in Eastland County, about 100 miles west of Fort Worth, burned more than 2,500 acres.

On Tuesday, Tarrant County Commissioners approved a burn ban after Renois told the court "we need it."

The ban does not impact the sale or use of fireworks in unincorporated areas of the county.

Renois said new subdivisions on the county's western edge are vulnerable to wildfires.

"You can burn 20 acres here and have quite a bit of damage if there's a 200-acre ranch or farm in the back yard of your subdivision," Renois said.

Parker County Judge Mark Riley took to Facebook on Monday to warn residents to take precautions over the July Fourth holiday.

Riley also said burn bans are limited as far as prohibiting the use of fireworks and the certain criteria must be met..

"If and when we meet that criteria, we will proceed as the law allows," Riley said.

The Texas Drought Monitor shows moderate to severe drought has returned to most of North Texas.

Riley said other human causes led to fires over the weekend.

"We have had multiple fires over the weekend — some have even been caused by people just burning trash," Riley said. "Don't burn anything, folks. Be safe. Enjoy your Fourth of July holiday."

Temperatures will climb to 101 on Tuesday before dropping to the mid-90s on the Fourth. The good news is winds will be lighter this week, which lessens the ability of grass fires to spread.

There is a slight chance of rain in the forecast for Wednesday and Friday but that isn't expected to bring much drought relief.

All lanes of I-20 and Interstate 30 from Loop 820 to Farm Road 5 in western Tarrant and eastern Parker counties are closed due to heavy smoke.

Bill Hanna: 817-390-7698, @fwhanna
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