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Drought makes area ripe for fires

Mid-December may not typically be a time of year when we spend a lot of time thinking about rainfall.

In fact, many of us may associate precipitation in the cold-weather months with icy road conditions. That’s usually what happens when moisture collides with pavement, freezing temperatures and a cold north wind.

But as we approach Christmas this year, we need to take a break from shopping and wrapping presents to check the rain gauge. Haven’t looked at yours lately? Well, you might be surprised to find it dry.

We know you’ve been busy, but give it some thought. When was the last time we had measurable precipitation? Yep, it’s been a while.

As the leaves began to change color and the nights grew longer, it was dry, and road conditions stayed that way for many Thanksgiving drives to Grandma’s. And here we are nearly to Christmas, and it’s still dry.

Drought conditions for North Texas and Denton County are approaching severely dry stages as a result of a lack of rainfall during the autumn months, and these conditions are expected to continue into 2013, according to the National Weather Service.

Hey, we realize that the old lawn may not need as much water at this time of year, so you probably haven’t noticed just how dry conditions have become out there, but you need to take a look. Denton County Emergency Services officials have said that the county is in moderate fire danger.

Jamie Moore, Denton County Emergency Services spokesman, told us it’s not unusual for the county to receive minimal rain during the winter, but an unusually dry fall makes conditions more dangerous. Winter doesn’t even get here until Friday, Dec. 21.

There are two fire seasons in Texas, and we’re in the second one, Moore said, adding that some people don’t think about winter as a fire season.

But if you took our suggestion and looked around, you may have noticed that it’s as dry now as it often is during the height of summer. But the drought is more noticeable during the summer because it’s so hot outside, and we tend to think about drought more when the temperatures are high.

Moore emphasized that it’s important to be aware that fires in the winter can spread just as quickly as they do during the summer.

He recommended that residents rake their leaves and keep their lawns cut short. During the winter, plants and leaves dry and wither, becoming fuel for potential fires, he said.

The drought has produced plenty of fuel for wildfires, and windy conditions can spread fire quickly. And don’t forget — if a fire occurs, call 911 immediately. Never try to put out a fire by yourself.

And don’t forget — a countywide burn ban is in effect by the Commissioners Court, prohibiting any outdoor burning or open flames. Denton County joins 110 Texas counties that have also enacted bans, including Tarrant, Wise and Grayson.

November marked the second consecutive month with minimal precipitation in North Texas and although water supplies are adequate, resources continue to decline.

According to the weather service, some meteorologists expect some rain during the first half of December. But officials are skeptical that enough rain will fall during the winter to ease drought conditions.

We hope they’re wrong, but remember to be careful — don’t let the drought result in a fire that will spoil the holidays.