Firefighters Look for Open Flames This Holiday Weekend

Nick Lawton
NewsWest 9

MIDLAND - The fire danger has gotten so bad that one Memorial Day vacation spot, the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, has issued a park ban on all ignition sources like cigarettes, stoves, and lanterns.

And here in the Basin, with firefighters already reeling from Tuesday's fire, they're warning residents this weekend to not let Tuesday happen again.

After a part of Midland was already charred earlier this week, fire conditions look just as bad this Memorial Day weekend.

With temperatures of 108 degrees and high winds predicted, firefighters are comparing the Basin ground to a fire pit.

"We live in a kindling forest," said Midland Fire Department Battalion Chief Vince Hancock. "The prairie is like a kindling forest. What you start your fires with, is what we're surrounded with. Anything that causes a spark can set off a grassfire."

It was just a blown-out tire that caused the major grassfire along 1788 on Tuesday.

Firefighters told NewsWest 9 that in the years they've been battling blazes here in West Texas, the problems on Memorial Day weekend usually come from sparks off the grill catching the grass on fire, which can quickly turn deadly.

"Not containing their fires," Northeast Midland County VFD Fire Chief Mat McClure said. "They're letting the embers blow everywhere. With the fire danger we have right now, any little spark could set off a major grassfire. The fire could spread anywhere from right up to 50-55 miles an hour."

Although there's a ban on outside burning, barbecuing is allowed as long as it's closed.

"They're allowed to barbecue but they have to have a proper barbecue pit and it has to be covered with a lid," Hancock said.

They also recommend taking a hose and spraying the grass around the grill.

"Make sure they barbecue in an area where the grass is real short, and to water the area around where they're barbecuing to keep the embers down," McClure said. "So if an ember does fly out of the barbecue pit, it'll land into wet grass."

The Northeast Midland County VFD told NewsWest 9 they're already short-handed this vacation weekend with only half of their squad, and they've also had two trucks break down since Tuesday's fire.

They're hoping everyone takes great care wherever they go.

Firefighters also recommend mowing your grass down at least 20 feet around your home to form a defense zone against fires.

As far as the heat, they say keep your outdoor activities in the morning between 7 to 11 a.m., and drink plenty of water.