Starting fires

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POSTED: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 - 5:05pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 - 5:24pm

A year ago at this time, Texas was going up in flames. And even though this year is mild by comparison, no one should get complacent.

When it comes to fire, 2012 is a walk in the park compared to 2011.

"Last year we’d come off numerous days of over 100 degrees,” says Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Jeff Sparks.

"And fuel conditions were extremely dry. This year, we’re looking much better. Our fuel moistures are about normal. We have a lot of green grass on the roadsides and a lot of green grass in the fields. The fire danger’s a lot less this year than it was last year.”

Now, when you live in the country like I do, this is the best time of year, and this is the best sound in the world. Walking on a carpet of pine needles.

But if that carpet gets too thick, you might have to do something. You might have to set it on fire.

“Such as the forest we have behinds us that you see here,” Sparks said. “Totally closed canopy and all the pine needles fall every year to the ground. So over several years of time, you get a dense bed of pine needles, almost like a mattress of pine needles, and those pine needles when you go into a dry period, burn very readily. By doing a prescribed fire, you remove those pine needles, reducing the fuel load. Also, you remove any dead stick and logs that have hit the ground. Therefore you reduce the fuel load so when a fire does come through there, it’s of a lot lower intensity.”

But, let’s face it, intentionally starting a fire near your home is a scary prospect.

“It is extremely scary to someone who doesn’t know the science behind it,” Sparks told us.

So, when you think about forest fires …You need to think about a smaller version, before this is the version you get.

This is one thing you shouldn’t even contemplate doing on your own. Call Texas Parks and Wildlife and they can help you put together a burn plan. Leave it to the pros.

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