Fire totals are down as spring nears

Local fire officials say the number of wildfires this year has been down compared to years past, and with spring just around the corner, the Crossroads area could enjoy a rather peaceful season to come.“It's actually pretty surprising,” Howard County Volunteer Fire Chief Tommy Sullivan said. “Last year at this time, was a pretty slow year for us. However, this year we're seeing even fewer fires. The average right now is about one wildfire per week, which is pretty amazing.”Sullivan attributes much of the calm to area residents being “fire wise” and not taking chances when the weather takes a turn for the worse.“On the days when the humidity has dipped below 10 percent and the danger is really high, people seem to be playing it smart. I feel like that's really helped us a lot,” Sullivan said. “Right now, the fire danger level is severe, but it hasn't moved into the extreme level, so we've been pretty fortunate, all the way around.”With just a little more than a week until spring, Sullivan said the Crossroads area could potentially enjoy an even longer stretch of good luck when it comes to wildfires.“We're hoping spring will bring some rains,” he said. “If we can make it until then without any major problems, we could be looking at a rather quiet start to the year. However, we're due for one more freeze between now and then, so we're not out of the woods yet.”Sullivan said a freeze now would increase the danger of wildfires until the spring rains make their way into the Howard County area.“If we get another freeze, then all of the vegetation that has greened-up recently will be killed off, providing more fuel for wildfires,” he said. “However, the spring rains should help counter that. It's just going to be a matter of playing things safe in the meantime. It really comes down to folks being fire wise and not taking chances.”Sullivan encouraged residents to do what they can to lessen the chance of their home being destroyed by a wildfire.“One of the most important things they can do is clear at least a 50-feet area around their house. Personally, with the high winds we have out here in West Texas, I suggest a 100-feet circle,” Sullivan said. “Make sure the grass is scalped down as low as you can get it within that area, because fire can move really fast through it.“Also, if you have trees, make sure they aren't touching. You don't want the fire to be able to jump from one tree or bush to the next.”