Red Flag Warning Issued For Southeast Texas, Putting Fire Officials On Alert

Dry, gusty winds and low humidity prompted the National Weather Service to issue a red flag warning for much of southeast Texas today, including Harris and surrounding counties. While the advisory has now been lifted, officials say conditions will remain dry until rain moves in.

North winds of 15-25 mph with gusts up to 40 mph were the reason for the red flag warning that put fire officials on alert.

Captain Jerry Ickes with the Harris County Fire Marshal's office says if you're having to burn outside, you need to be extremely careful and watch the fire closely.

"Because of the low humidity and the past freeze we had, it has killed the grass, made it extremely dry, and therefore, it is easily set on fire."

He says the high winds can spread even small fires quickly.

"If you have to do something that requires an open flame, somebody needs to be watching to make sure they get it put out immediately."

In Montgomery County, an outdoor burn pile set a large storage building on fire.

Fire Marshall Jimmy Williams says the fire threat will remain as long as the conditions do:

"Normally in the winter time, red flag warnings are a daily occurrence. In the summer time, you can use the burn ban when it’s a dry weather for weeks at a time, but our winter weather is dependent on the day's event. That's why the red flag warning was issued. So essentially, (what) we're doing is asking people not burn today, while the winds and the conditions are so bad."

He says it's a pretty safe bet that they'll be responding to more fires before the threat is over:

"In the winter time, it's all about the dead vegetation. That's what the fuel is. It really doesn't matter how wet the ground is. It's just how much dead dry grass is available to burn."

The chance for rain moves in beginning on Thursday when temperatures drop into the low 30s.

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Pat Hernandez

Reporter

Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...