Howard County commissioners are expected to reinstate a countywide burn ban Monday morning in hopes of averting possible disaster as fire officials warn that conditions are extremely dangerous.
Howard County Volunteer Fire Chief Tommy Sullivan said much-needed rain received earlier this year may have made the Crossroads area landscape more beautiful, but with the winter season approaching, the greenery is going brown.
“In some areas we have grass that's 36 inches tall right now,” Sullivan said. “That's taller than we've seen in a very, very long time. Now that it's dying and drying out, the danger of grass fire is at an extremely dangerous level.”
Sullivan said the dangers presented by grass fires is very different from the wild fire dangers that arise from large amounts of brush.
“With a brush fire the biggest danger is the amount of heat it generates, which is incredible,” Sullivan said. “Grass fires don't burn nearly as hot. However, they burn very fast, which means they can cover a great amount of space in a very short period of time. Coupled with the high winds we have this time of year, we can lose a large numbers of acres in the blink of an eye.”
Sullivan said he and his firefighters are already seeing an increase in the number of grass fires reported in the county, and the most common cause is coming from downed power lines.
“We're already seeing an average of two fires per day, which is a big increase,” he said. “In all honesty, I expect to see that increase to seven or eight per day before it's all over. We're hoping the burn ban will help keep that number as low as possible.
“The majority of fires we're seeing right now are from downed power lines. We've been having pretty high winds, and one day it's hitting us at 35 mph out of the west, then the next day it's 35 mph out of the east. Just like any kind of wire, if you work it back and forth long enough, it will break.”