Montgomery County Remains in “Exceptional” Drought Status. Keetch Byram Drought index averages 714 across with the County, with some areas in South County and The Woodlands area nearing 750. Series of fires on Friday stretches available resources and requires numerous Firefighting agencies.
Conroe, Tx June 4th, 2011
Most of Montgomery County is currently classified as”very high fire danger” due to the ongoing record drought. The area has not seen a soaking rainfall since October 2010. Our current long term drought is the worst since record keeping began in 1895. As the drought worsens throughout the area, Firefighters are responding to an increasing number of large wildfires. Although several of these fires have threatened neighborhoods, Firefighters have been able to bring them under control without losing any homes to date.
Link to Fire Danger information
Montgomery County and Surrounding Areas
Southeast Texas is experiencing “exceptional” drought conditions, the most severe level possible, with Montgomery County now classified as one of the driest areas in Southeast Texas. Several wildfires have occurred recently in Montgomery County with most damage limited to vegetation and outbuildings. In recent weeks, the numbers of fires caused by outdoor burning has dropped dramatically, as most residents are complying with the burn ban. Citations have been issued to those who continue to violate the ban. Most recent fires have started on roadsides or from downed powerlines. Juveniles have been identified as responsible for some of these fires and several are now enrolled in the MCFMO Juvenile Firesetters Program. This program is conducted by MCFMO Investigators with specialized training in juvenile counseling and identifying potential firesetting behavior.
Major fires occurred Friday throughout the County with several occurring at the same time during the afternoon. Dispatchers from the Montgomery County Fire Dispatch Center managed several simultaneous multiple alarm fires, assuring the closest available crews responded to each subsequent call for assistance. Firefighters throughout Montgomery, Harris, Liberty, and Walker Counties worked throughout the afternoon at one of the many area fires or covering empty fire stations.
At this point, most of the fires appear to have started accidentally. A large fire in the City of Willis started alongside a freeway exit ramp and was likely caused by a carelessly discarded cigarette or mechanical failure from a passing vehicle. Another large fire in the Willis area started when sparks from a metal cutting operation landed in dry vegetation. A large fire on FM 1485 between Conroe and Grangerland started as a result of a tire failure when hot debris ignited a roadside fire. That fire threatened a neighborhood before The Caney Creek Fire Department brought it under control, with the assistance of several surrounding Departments.
Although many of the State’s major fires have been in sparsely populated North and West Texas, Montgomery County is home to the 2nd highest unincorporated population in the State, with approximately 375,000 residents living outside of municipal boundaries. Most of Montgomery County is classified as an urban/wildland interface area, where populated areas are adjacent to wildland areas. With our population and forested areas, Montgomery County is arguably the largest urban / wildland interface area in the State of Texas.
As long as the current drought conditions continue, Montgomery County is at risk for a catastrophic wildfire, where both lives and property could be lost to a major wildfire. Although a Burn Ban will likely remain in place for some time, there are other steps residents can take now to reduce the risk of wildfires, and protect their family and property should a fire occur.
At this time Montgomery County is under a burn ban, prohibiting outdoor burning throughout the area. Residents should look around their property this weekend and take steps now to reduce the threat of wildfire and to prevent a wildfire from damaging their property.
Montgomery County has seen some damage to structures from recent wildfires, mostly outbuildings so far. Citations are pending in several recent cases. Most recent citations have been issued for burning household garbage or violations of the burn ban. Both violations are Class C Misdemeanors with a maximum fine of $500.
Deputy Fire Marshals enforcing the Burn Ban have now been joined by the Montgomery County Sheriff’s and Constable’s Deputies, as well as other area Police Departments. Several citations have been issued in recent days to residents who continue to ignore the ban.
For more information please go to our website and click on “Outdoor Burning”.