Wildfires break out amid new heat record
By Miles Smith
Lockhart joined Austin in shattering its July 23 record for high temperatures on Monday with an official recorded temperature of 107 posted by weather.com.
The record was one degree over a record temperature for the day that had stood since 1934, when the mercury hit 106.
The record-breaking thermometer reading was recorded at 5 p.m., although others in the area reported seeing temperatures above 110 on their car dashboards and a few more reported sub-Saharan-like temperatures on their home thermometers.
“The one in the alley behind the pharmacy hit 130 today,” said Westy’s owner Brad Westmoreland. “I think this proves what they’ve always said – this spot is the hottest one in Lockhart.”
But the temperature was still a few degrees cooler than in Austin, where the high temp officially hit 110 on Monday.
By Tuesday, the high temperature was back to 100 – an ordinary reading for July. High temperatures through next Wednesday range from 98 to 102 for Lockhart.
The Monday heat capped off a nearly six-day stretch of heat advisories and excessive heat warnings in the area.
The heat and dry conditions led Caldwell County Judge Ken Schawe to issue a declaration of disaster and an emergency burn ban order that county commissioners on Monday upheld.
The ban prohibits all burning of materials outside of an enclosure, and the engagement of any activity outdoors that could allow flames and sparks that could result in a fire, unless done in an enclosure designed to protect the spread of fire. Violating the order is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $500.
Despite the burn ban, wildfires broke out throughout the area beginning on Thursday, when one broke out in the 1100 block of Fox Lane.
A total of 66.3 acres burned up at FM 1322 and Burdette Wells Road on Sunday, and on Monday, a wildfire spanning 30-40 acres was put out in Lockhart at FM 672 near Navarro Street, with a Starflight helicopter keeping watch and on hand to dump water if needed.
The Lockhart fire was attended to by Lockhart Fire Department, Lockhart Police Department, Lockhart Electric, Chisholm Trail Fire Rescue, Mid-County Fire/Rescue-ESD #4, Dale Volunteer Fire Dept., Maxwell Community Volunteer Fire Department and the Caldwell County Office of Emergency Management.
One of the homeowners who said his property was affected commended first responders for putting out the fire on FM 672 so quickly.
“There were (trucks parked) and they stopped the fires within two feet of all of them,” said Deward Cummings. “Those guys were phenomenal, and some of them were volunteers.”
All of the fires are under investigation and each has been contained or extinguished as of press time.
Caldwell County Office of Emergency Management Chief Martin Ritchey said people needed to exercise caution and take extra care to prevent fires in hot, dry conditions.
“There is a higher level of wildfires,” Ritchey said. “The high temperatures and low humidity has caused the vegetation to rapidly burn.”