Wildfire conditions still exist

By Austin Jackson | Published Saturday, August 11, 2018

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Fire in the Rain

FIRE IN THE RAIN – Firefighters contain a grass fire off Farm Road 2048 in Boyd after thunderstorms swept through the area Thursday night. Messenger photo by Austin Jackson

Firefighters, farmers and ranchers have been looking to the sky for months, hoping to see rain relieve drought and wildfire conditions in Wise County.

Rain came this week, but for now, the burn ban is still firmly in effect.

“This rain was welcomed for our ranchers and farmers. It may help them a little bit, but it’s not improved our wildfire conditions,” Wise County Emergency Management Coordinator Cody Powell said. “We are still under a burn ban. There aren’t even any conversations about lifting it.”

In the Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI), which measures the wildfire potential by taking into account soil moisture, the county is down 22 points from yesterday. The average around the county remains at over 700. The scale goes from 0-800 with the top end (800) indicating completely dry conditions.

“We saw a significant decrease in KBDI today, but our fuel load is still very high,” Powell said.

The conditions are so dry, fires can even start in the midst of a rainstorm.

In Boyd, a lightning strike sparked a grass fire near a house off Farm Road 2048 Thursday night around 8 p.m.

Neighbor Tammie Warner said she heard several claps of thunder and eventually saw smoke rising from the property next door.

“We rushed over to make sure no one was home,” she said.

The property owners were not at the ranch. Multiple departments responded to the scene. Newark Fire Department Chief Jerry Taylor was in command and had the fire contained and put out within two hours.

“It didn’t get the hay bales, and none of the structures were caught,” Taylor said. “Just grass and trash.”

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