With Labor Day approaching, officials urge caution with any outdoor ignition sources.

Sporadic rainfall over the past couple of months has done little to alleviate the effects of lingering drought in many parts of Texas. The current Keetch-Byram Drought Index average stands at 647 for Montgomery County with portions north and west as high as 751. With no rain in sight, the Texas A&M Forest Service warns that portions of Eastern and Central Texas are at the highest risk of experiencing wildfire outbreaks.

Many residents will be taking to the outdoors this weekend, heading to the lakes and woods for recreation or to farms and ranches in preparation for hunting season. Always check to see if there is a ban burn in place in the County you are in before you burn and be cautious with any outdoor ignition sources. Although BBQ pits are not affected by a County burn ban, many campgrounds and parks may have restrictions on their use.

Keep the following tips in mind to ensure you and your family enjoy a safe Labor Day weekend:

  • Check with your county for current burn bans.
  • Be aware when grilling on wooden decks or in dry grass.
  • Keep water handy in case of fire.
  • When transporting portable pits, be sure the fire is extinguished.
  • Thoroughly soak any leftover charcoal or ash from your BBQ pit before disposal
  • Completely extinguish all smoking materials.
  • Remember your vehicle’s exhaust system can ignite a fire when driving through or stopped in dry vegetation.
  • Report all fires immediately to 911.

The Keetch-Byram Drought Index measures drought conditions on a scale of 1 to 800, with 600-800 considered to be higher fire danger. Historically, Montgomery County has seen an increase in the number of summer wildfires when the KBDI average reaches 600, with those fires becoming larger and more dangerous as we approach 700 on the scale. The largest and most destructive wildfire to ever strike Montgomery County began on the 2011 Labor Day weekend when the average KBDI reading was 695.

Although our area is in much better shape than we were at this time during 2011’s historic drought, the potential for wildfires will continue to be high until our area receives significant rainfall. Rainfall earlier this year contributed to new growth in lighter wildfire fuels such as grass and brush. As our drought lingers on, these fuels die and dry out, and can easily be ignited by any small flame or spark.

At this time, there is a burn ban in place throughout Montgomery County and the MCFMO asks that citizens refrain from any outdoor burning until our area sees significant rainfall and the ban is lifted. Burning is prohibited in most cities as well. Always check with local officials before you burn.

Now is the time to prepare your home for a wildfire, here are some helpful tips

· Create a green “defensible space” by watering your yard and bushes within 30 feet of your home

· Remove any leaves or straw from your roof and around your home

· Trim landscaping near your home, remove or cut to the ground any dead bushes or trees

· Move anything that will burn away from your home; firewood, lumber, etc

· Place garden hoses in strategic locations and have them ready for use during a fire

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