Extra Firefighters Ready During Red Flag Warning

Fire officials concerned that any spark could lead to major grass fire.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Firefighters across North Texas are keeping a watchful eye on the weather. High winds and dry brush are the perfect recipe for fire wildfire danger. (Published Thursday, Feb 20, 2014)

    Firefighters were keeping a close eye on weather conditions on Thursday with the National Weather Service issuing a Red Flag Warning for most of North Texas, including Dallas and Tarrant counties.

    The Red Flag Warning meant extra personnel were on-duty at fire stations across the area, ready to respond to any kind of grass or wildfire that popped up. The concern was with high winds that could quickly spread the smallest spark into a larger out-of-control fire.
    "Nothing is growing out there right now, it's all dead, dry and it's ready to burn," said Battalion Chief Eddy Wood, the Tarrant County TIFMAS Wildland Coordinator.
    Dry brush and grasses combined with lower humidity and strong winds, make a perfect recipe for fire danger according to Wood.
    "(It's) really going to mean rapid fire growth, any fire that starts we're really going to have to try hard to chase it down," he said.
    The Red Flag Warnings prompted many fire departments to add additional resources. Fort Worth Fire had an extra person manning all of its brush trucks while the warning was in effect, just in case something popped up.
    "Our job is to keep it small, keep it contained," said Jake Pannell, a Fort Worth firefighter based at station 22.
    Brush 22 was ready to roll if needed on Thursday, with it's job to get right on top of any flames.
    "The job of this truck, being the size that it is, small and maneuverable, is to keep the fire small," Pannell said. "With these conditions it's conducive to get bigger."
    Even in the heart of the city you can easily find dry grass and brush, which could spark and threaten structures.
    "There's some spots where homes have been demolished, there's some acreage around that hasn't been developed as well," Pannell said.
    When the cold front arrived on Thursday it brought strong winds which clouded the sky with dust. The downtown Fort Worth skyline was obscured by dust for a while, but few fires have been reported.
    But Wood said it wouldn't take much for one to start up.
    "Even throwing a cigarette out, mowing the lawn hitting a rock can start a spark," he said. "Anything you can do to prevent a wildfire will help us the best."
    With the public's help fire officials hope the extra resources won't be needed to respond to anything. The National Weather Service's Fort Worth office said the start to 2014 is tied for the eighth driest start to a year in DFW's history. Those dry conditions were a big reason for concern on Thursday.
    "That set the stage up, the weather is the most unpredictable component," Wood said.
    Wood said over the last four or five years there has been an effort in Tarrant County to be better prepared for grass and wildland fires. Additional grass fire training for firefighters of all levels is set to take place next month in Fort Worth, as fire crews ready for wildfire season.