Mason County News
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Texas Is On Fire - It's Not Over Yet
Wednesday, April 20, 2011 • Posted April 20, 2011

Last week, the smoke blew into town. Fires burning in Tom Green County and moving to the east produced smoke that darkened the sun, produced a haze that obscured the hills, and caused those with breathing difficulties to experience days of discomfort.The bad news... if rainfall is not received soon, things are only going to get worse all across the state. Governor Perry has asked President Obama to declare the state as a disaster area. Hundreds of thousands of acres have burned. Hundreds of homes and buildings have been destroyed. Lives have been lost.Fires burned in Oak Hill, Robert Lee, Bronte, Fort Davis, East Texas, North Texas, South Texas, West Texas. Agricultural spokesmen have said that this is the worst drought conditions Texas has experienced in over 100 years. Even if it should start raining this week, the fuel is already there and summer will be dicey at best.Though burn bans are in effect for two-thirds of Texas 254 counties, it's never too late to remind everyone of the danger that we are in from all combustible sources right now. The small fire in Austin was started when the campfire of a homeless man got out of control. The Tom Green fire is thought to have started when sparks from a welder smoldered, then flared up and began burning. Burn bans warn residents not to have any "intentional burning," but, it is very often the unintentional that causes the damage.Still smoldering cigarette butts, thrown from a vehicle, can land in grass and start slowly growing into a fire. Loose chains hanging down from trailers or vehicles bounce against the highway, shooting out sparks that fly into the roadside tinder. People pulling off the roadside into dry grass to take a quick break get back on the road, never realizing that the heat from their vehicle was enough to ignite the grass below them. People using a common lawnmower or shredder forget that the metal blades, striking rocks, creates sparks, and then a blaze.Mason County, like so many of our neighboring communities, has a fire department made up of volunteers. During the past week, our personnel have been traveling to those neighboring areas to try and help contain the fires before they cause even more damage. For better or worse, state and federal teams have been getting involved also, and everyone, and everything, is taxed to its limits. Each time a new fire breaks out, personnel and resources are sent to where they can be most effective.But, the equipment is susceptible to breakdowns. The personnel,,,, well, they are human and tire out. Since we already know that we will be going into the summer with no appreciable relief from the fire danger, we can also know that the resources used to combat them will be pushed to their limits. So, it falls back upon us to do what we can, where we can. I suggested a few weeks ago that everyone remember the Mason Volunteer Fire Department's upcoming barbecue fundraiser, and to give all that they can. I would do that once more; but, I have an additional request.Think carefully about all your actions. Be aware of your surroundings and the imminent fire danger all around you. If you see a situation that you think could develop into a possible fire, speak up and voice your concerns. If the people causing those concerns do not respond, let the Mason Sheriff's Department know of your worries and they can discuss it with the parties.For the next few months, at least, keep hoses where they can be gotten to easily and quickly. Keep grass, brush and weeds away from your home and outbuildings. Keep combustible fuel of all types safely secured, and away from other combustible items.Know your routes out of an area. If fire should approach from the west, how do you best escape to the east? If you see smoke, who do you call? If you see a fire truck, move over as quickly as possible to allow it to get to its destination; and, do NOT follow the fire trucks to try and watch the "action." It's important to allow our firefighters the safe operating room they need to do their job effectively.And, I've said it before: when you see one of our own firefighters, shake their hand and thank them. They are all that's keeping the flames at bay.It’s all just my opinion.ger/opinion - texas on fire

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