Wildfires shut down state parks in Central Texas

Photo credit Texas A&M Forest Service

The Texas A&M Forest Service has closed two state parks in the Texas Hill Country because of wildfires burning there. On Wednesday afternoon, Enchanted Rock State Natural Area and Pedernales Falls State Park were shut down.

Near Pedernales Falls State Park, the "Smoke Rider Fire" was 800 acres and 30% contained on Wednesday; the "Big Sky Fire" near Enchanted Rock was 1,400 acres and 25% contained.

On Tuesday, the Texas A&M Forest Service said it responded to 26 fires covering 3,593 acres.

Fire departments across Texas have been responding to calls for mutual aid.

"We're all trained to fight any type of fire," said DeSoto Fire Chief Bryan Southard. "There are special certifications for wildland or grass fire fighting. It is a totally different type of firefighting than what we do when we go into your home to fight a fire there."

Southard said homeowners in more populated areas of North Texas can take steps to protect themselves.

"Grass fires move very, very fast," Southard said. "One of the best things you can do to help slow the spread of the grass fire until the fire department can get there is take your water hose and start watering your yard. Or if you have a sprinkler system, you can activate your sprinkler system. What this does is wet the grass and slow the burn. That will give us enough time to get there to get the fire extinguished."

Southard said trimming bushes and keeping yards cut short can reduce the amount of fuel available. He says people should also gather and dispose of grass clippings.

He also said people who will be grilling outside should have a hose nearby in case an ember starts a fire or people notice an area of smoke rising from the grass.

"We're not always going to be in a drought," Southard said. "This will eventually end, and we appreciate everybody's patience and working with the fire department to keep us all safe until we can get through this summer drought."