Caldwell County sees spike in wildfires
By Wesley Gardner
Caldwell County Commissioners on Tuesday approved the extension of a county wide burn ban following a week that saw several fires pop up throughout the county.
According to Hank Alex, chief deputy of the Caldwell County Office of Emergency Management, his crew and firefighters from throughout the county responded to at least four fires last week alone.
The moisture level goes anywhere from zero to 800,” said Alex. “We’re at 620. Anywhere from 600-800 puts you at critical fire danger.
“We’ve been getting few showers, but it hasn’t been enough. We need inches of rain. Things are hazardously dry right now.”
Alex noted one fire in particular last week was the second largest the county has seen this year.
The fire, which burned along FM 1386 near the border of Caldwell and Gonzales counties.
“It started on the roadside, whether it was a cigarette flicked out, chains from a trailer, or somebody pulled off on the side of a road and It was caused by a hot catalytic converter,” said Alex, noting the fire burned approximately 22 acres. “The treetops were burning, and it was starting to carry across. The embers were throwing out sparks ahead of it, causing it spread … we were lucky to have been able to contain it.”
Alex said quelling the flames took the assistance of seven fire departments and Star Flight, which used helicopters to douse the fire with water from above.
Alex noted that nearly 90 percent of wildfires are caused by humans and offered the following tips to avoid potentially starting a fire:
If you’re going to barbecue, don’t leave the pit unattended. Never dump out ash unless you’ve poured water over the coals first to ensure their still not burning.
Welders are required to have a spotter with them to keep an eye out for any potential flames. They must also have a source of water on hand to keep any potential fires from spreading.
If you’re pulling a trailer, make sure you’re not dragging any chains.
Don’t pull over on the side of the road near high grass. Hot catalytic converter can spark a fire.
Don’t throw cigarettes or bottles out of car windows. The plastic can act as a magnifying, producing a fire.
“People just need to be careful,” said Alex. “Use your head – common sense.”
Alex noted that many local fire stations are funded via donations. Due to restrictions imposed from COVID-19, most weren’t able to hold fundraisers. Monetary donations are helpful, he said, but so are donations of supplies, like water and Gatorade.