Marion County under burn ban, Judge recalls 2011 Bear Creek Fire

Marion County Judge Leward LaFleur implemented a burn ban in Marion County today. It will be in effect at least until the next commissioner’s meeting.

“We haven’t had any significant rainfall for quite some time here in Marion County. What I’ve done is I’ve reached out to some of my fire chiefs throughout the county and asked their opinion, and a consensus was made that a burn ban should be put into effect,” said LaFleur.

He said since Marion County doesn’t have an immediate commissioner’s meeting, he decided to initiate an order specifically from the County Judge’s office to implement the burn ban.

In past years, when East Texas had multiple days of triple-digit heat throughout the summer, coupled with dry weather, wildfires have impacted Marion County. LaFleur’s family was personally affected by the Bear Creek Fire that ignited on September 4, 2011. The wildfire burned more than 43,000 acres in Marion and Cass Counties and destroyed more than 65 homes.

“The one thing that I really hone in on when we talk about the Bear Creek Fires is my wife Brooke, and her mom and daddy lost every Earthy possession they had in that disaster. So we don’t have baby pictures, my in-laws don’t have wedding albums and letters and cards and stuff most people keep around; we just don’t have those things. It really hits close to home when you start talking about dry, heat, fire and wind; it just brings about a whole different aspect of what that means,” he said.

The Bear Creek Fire took multiple agencies more than five days to control. It eventually burned more than 91 structures and caused $6 Million in damages.

Texas A&M Forest Service has warned of high fire danger this weekend, with above normal temperatures and minimal rainfall forecast for the third week in a row, due to a period of high pressure that is impacting the state. Accelerated drying in vegetation, resulting from widespread triple-digit temperatures and dry air, begins Thursday and will continue through the weekend.

Elevated fire weather, including triple-digit temperatures, low relative humidity and wind speeds near 15 mph, will support an increased potential for significant wildfires that may directly impact communities where dry to critically dry vegetation is present, according to the Forest Service.

“The dryness we are currently seeing across portions of the state is, generally, what we would be experiencing in mid to late July,” said Brad Smith, Texas A&M Forest Service Predictive Services Department Head. “The drought that has been carried over from the spring into the summer has initiated an early start to summer fire season. Early summer drying in June also introduces the possibility of experiencing a severe late-summer fire season.”

This year, according to the Forest Service, wildfire activity has trended above average for acres burned and the number of fire responses. State and local fire resources have responded to an average of 4,047 wildfires for 188,259 acres over the past five years. In 2022, firefighters have already responded to 5,047 wildfires that have burned 527,241 acres across the state.

“Typically, in East Texas, we hear about wildfires in West Texas, California and New Mexico. You know, it’s not something that’s really on our plate too often here, but boy, when it is, it is. And nothing good comes of those things,” said Judge LaFleur.

Ashli Dansby/Stagecoach Media