Howard County facing dangerous fire season, worst conditions in - KWES NewsWest 9 / Midland, Odessa, Big Spring, TX: newswest9.com |

Howard County facing dangerous fire season, worst conditions in 30 years

Lush vegetation and unusually tall grass have fueled fire risks this summer across Howard County, officials said. (Source: KWES) Lush vegetation and unusually tall grass have fueled fire risks this summer across Howard County, officials said. (Source: KWES)
Crews spent hours Tuesday afternoon hosing down vegetation on FM 821 to prevent flames from reigniting. (Source: KWES) Crews spent hours Tuesday afternoon hosing down vegetation on FM 821 to prevent flames from reigniting. (Source: KWES)
Tuesday afternoon's fire was caused by an electrical short circuit, according to Howard County Volunteer Fire Chief Tommy Sullivan. (Source: KWES) Tuesday afternoon's fire was caused by an electrical short circuit, according to Howard County Volunteer Fire Chief Tommy Sullivan. (Source: KWES)
Electrical failure quickly sparked a grass fire that destroyed more than 5 acres, officials said. (Source: KWES) Electrical failure quickly sparked a grass fire that destroyed more than 5 acres, officials said. (Source: KWES)
HOWARD COUNTY, TX (KWES) -

Hot zones across the Basin are facing a fire season with potentially record-breaking devastation, fire officials said Tuesday.

"There is more fuel on the ground than I've seen in 30 years," said Howard County Volunteer Fire Chief Tommy Sullivan. "Right now, the whole county is blanketed with three- to four-foot grasses and weeds. Everything's drying out. It's just fuel on the ground waiting for a spark."

Emergency calls were "non-stop," he said, with Howard County crews rushing to two fast-burning grass fires in less than 24 hours.

Firefighters managed to extinguish both with no reports of injuries or damage to homes, Sullivan confirmed.

Lightning sparked the first blaze Monday night near Highway 87 and North County Road 19, he said, and scorched between 15 and 20 acres.

An electrical short circuit caused the second fire Tuesday afternoon on FM 821, east of Forsan. Lush vegetation in the area fueled the flames and burned more than 5 acres within an hour.

An earlier fire last week destroyed more than 600 acres in Coahoma, according to authorities.

"These grass fires are burning three times faster than the worst of what we saw in 2011," Sullivan said. "The only thing we can really control right now is the 'human factor.'"

Outdoor burning could easily ignite dried grass - "fuel waiting for a spark" - and destroy thousands of acres, he explained.

County officials approved Sullivan's suggestion to enact a new burn ban Monday during a regularly scheduled Commissioners' Court meeting.

"It's just not worth risking homes and lives [without a burn ban]," said Sullivan. "You can only roll the dice so many times."

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