Sporadic rainfall over the past couple of months has brought welcome relief during the area's ongoing multi-year drought, but a recent change in area weather patterns has area drought indexes rising again throughout southeast Texas. In just the past week alone, the Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) average has jumped nearly 100 points.
With no rain in sight, parts of western and north Montgomery County will reach 700 on the drought index scale by this weekend. Readings of this magnitude signify extreme drought conditions and increased fire danger for most of the Magnolia, Montgomery and Willis areas of the county. Just this week, a 50 acre fire broke out in Grimes County, just west of Magnolia. That fire is now contained, but will take several days to complete mop up operations.
The KBDI measures drought conditions on a scale of 1 to 800, with 600-800 considered to be higher fire danger. Historically, Montgomery County has seen an increase in the number of summer wildfires when the KBDI average reaches 600, with those fires becoming larger and more dangerous the area approaches 700 on the scale. The largest and most destructive wildfire to ever strike Montgomery County began Sept. 5, 2011 when the average KBDI reading was 695.
Although the area is in much better shape than during 2011's historic drought, the potential for wildfires will be increasing unless there is significant rainfall soon. Ironically, the early spring rainfall contributed to new growth in lighter wildfire fuels such as grass and brush. As drought conditions deteriorate, these fuels can be easily ignited by any small flame or spark.
At this time, there is a burn ban in place throughout Montgomery County and the Montgomery County Fire Marshal's Office (MCFMO) is asking that citizens refrain from any outdoor burning until the area sees significant rainfall and the ban is lifted. Burning is prohibited in most cities as well.
Always check with local officials before you burn.
MCFMO officials said that now is the time to prepare your home for a wildfire. Here are some helpful tips
• Create a green "defensible space" by watering your yard and bushes within 30 feet of your home
• Remove any leaves or straw from your roof and around your home
• Trim landscaping near your home, remove or cut to the ground any dead bushes or trees
• Move anything that will burn away from your home; firewood, lumber, etc
• Place garden hoses in strategic locations and have them ready for use during a fire
For updates or more information visit www.mctx.org/ fire.