the side of the road all the way up to a multiacre grass re potentially with some structures being threatened.” Hot, dry conditions John Nielsen-Gammon, Texas state climatologist and director for the Texas Center for Climate Studies at Texas A&M University, said it is not surprising the area north of Austin and beyond has experienced a busy re season because the region is in the middle of an “intense drought.” “We see a direct correlation in the number of wildres we are respond- ing to with this lack of precipitation and the high temperatures we’ve had this summer,” Mallinger said. Rainfall is a key mitigating factor in helping to reduce wild and grass res in a given area, according to Kari Hines, Texas A&M Forest Service Firewise coordinator. Hines said 2022 so far ranks among the worst for dry conditions and re incidents in Texas in the last decade. Data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows from January to July 2021, Williamson and Travis counties received about 23 inches of rainfall. For the same time period this year, rainfall in both counties totaled about 10.5 inches. Though a little more than an inch of rain fell in northern Tra- vis County and Williamson County on Aug. 22 and 23, according to the National Weather Service, Perkins said there have been some improve- ments to the dry conditions. How- ever, he added that several days of consistent, heavy rainfall are required to meaningfully reverse the dry con- ditions in the area. Nielsen-Gammon echoed Perkins and said the only way out of these conditions is consistent rain. While a little rain will make it temporarily harder for res to start, it will take several inches of rain for grasses to
Precipitation is a major factor in predicting wild and grass res in a given region, according to professionals. Data shows the amount of precipitation from January
to July for years listed below. FACTOR The rainfall
Local experts conduct public outreach to educate residents on the best ways to stay safe and prevent res. Some tips include: AWARENESS Building
Sign up for local alerts and emergency warnings, such as www.warncentraltexas.com.
Know at least two ways out of a neighborhood in case of needed evacuation. Make sure addresses are posted and visible on homes for emergency responders. Create a defensible space around the home to slow re spread.
2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
SOURCE: NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATIONCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
However, some mitigation projects have occurred in Williamson County, including an eort this spring at Twin Springs Reserve near Lake George- town, according to county ocials. Local re chiefs also stressed the importance of residents being cau- tious and aware of their surroundings so they do not spark a re. This can range from not throwing cigarettes on the side of the road to adhering to the burn bans when they are in place in both Williamson and Travis countries. Over the long term, local, state and national experts expect to see more wild and grass re incidents. Nielsen-Gammon said as tempera- tures continue to rise overall due to climate change—with the average global temperature increasing by 2 degrees Fahrenheit compared to the last century—local weather will trend toward more hot and dry conditions. “[Wild and grass res] will still be conned to mostly dry years—so this won’t be something we expect to see every year—but we do expect them to become slightly worse overall,” Nielsen-Gammon said.
come out of dormancy and become less ammable long term, he said. “[We want] preferably several dif- ferent rains because we don’t want it all running o—we want it to soak into the ground,” Nielsen-Gammon said. Long-term preparation Hines said weather forecasters are projecting below-average rain- fall statewide for the next several months, and wildre windows are also projected to expand over the next several years due to diminish- ing moisture levels combined with more heat. That will likely be the case not only in Texas, but in more areas nationwide, she said. “Land management and emergency response agencies are seeing and are forecasting an increased rate of days where we can have wildres impact- ing our communities,” Hines said. Perkins said there are not many opportunities for prevention and mitigation work in his jurisdiction because the large majority of at-risk land within Travis County ESD No. 2 is privately owned farmland, and those property owners typically per- form their own fuel-reduction oper- ations. Glaiser said the same of his jurisdiction.
Reach out to a community risk reduction division to assess the risk of re.
SOURCE: TRAVIS COUNTY EMERGENCY SERVICES DISTRICT NO. 2COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
“People and their activities cause more than 90% of all wildfires in Texas. The largest number of human-caused wildfires is a result of careless debris burning. Other causes include sparks from welding and grinding equipment, carelessly WHAT DO YOU WISH RESIDENTS KNEW ABOUT PREVENTING WILDFIRES?
discarded smoking materials, vehicles’ exhaust systems and arson.”
Nicholas Perkins, Chief of Travis County Emergency Services District No. 2
For more information, visit communityimpact.com .
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