Since Sunday, close to 200,000 acres and 115 homes have been destroyed by wildfires raging through drought-stricken North and Central Texas. Although Walker County has not seen anything near as bad, Huntsville Fire Chief Tom Grisham said there have been a large number of small grass fires across the county.

“There have only been small ones and we’ve been able to contain them so far,” he said. “We probably ran seven or eight calls (Monday) throughout the county, so we were pretty busy. We had a pretty big fire over in the Deep River Plantation area (in north Walker County). A brush fire got out of hand and ran across into someone’s property.”

Just like in the northern part of Texas, dry weather is the main factor here. In response to those conditions, burn bans were issued Wednesday and Friday for Huntsville and Walker County, respectively.

The length of burn bans all depends on when sufficient rain comes. As soon as it does, the ban will be lifted, but until then, burning is prohibited in the city and county.

In the meantime, Grisham said people need to be careful when dealing with anything that could start a fire. After all, he said, fires don’t start themselves.

“It’s not the act of God that’s bringing all these fires, it’s the human factor,” Grisham said. “You’ve got a discarded Christmas tree, all the wrapping paper in boxes and if you live in the county and don’t have garbage pickup, you think, ‘What can I do?’ The one thing they’ve always done is burn that stuff.”

While the burn ban is in effect, Grisham said citations can be issued for violations.

With no major grass fires so far, Grisham said his staff has been able to handle all that has come its way, despite being slightly short-staffed over the holidays.

“We’re getting back up to speed now, but probably about 10 to 12 percent of the fire department is Sam Houston (State University) students who go home, so we were short-staffed, but we were able to cover the fire stations,” he said. “We have a good situation with six fire departments in the county that I can get help from when needed.”

Grisham is asking anyone who sees a fire to call the fire department immediately at (936) 291-3047.

“By any means, if somebody sees a fire burning, please call it in,” he said. “It doesn’t make a difference if it’s a small fire, because small fires become big fires very quickly.”

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