Marion County received some much-needed rain last week, but not enough to mitigate the dry conditions from extreme drought. That was on full display Friday when two separate fires ignited, burning a combined 29 acres in the county.
Marion 4862, a fire near the Cypress River Airport, burned 21 acres before being fully contained by local and Texas A&M Forest Service personnel. The second fire, Marion 4860, was east of Benton and Stumpy lakes. It burned eight acres before local and Texas A&M Forest Service personnel brought the fire under control and fully contained the blaze.
“Over the last week or so, our region has gotten some very much-needed rain, but not enough to allow us to cancel the ban burn. When we place a burn ban in Marion County, we don’t do that because it’s the easy thing to do. It’s a well thought out have process. We talk to the fire chiefs across the county, and they talk to the folks at A&M,” said Marion County Judge Leward J. LaFleur.”
“The Texas Forest Service puts out an index almost daily of all the drought conditions throughout Texas. Right now, Marion County, Harrison County, Cass County, Gregg County, all the surrounding areas are classified as extreme drought conditions, even with the rain we got.”
LaFleur noted rain showers have been spotty, and while it might rain in one area of the county, another area won’t see any precipitation.
“Just because it rains at your house doesn’t mean that the drought condition has changed at all. Because the ground is so dry, it soaks up the water so swiftly that it’s like it never happened. And sometimes we see fires, and they are away from everything, and no one is burning, but something so minute as a chain dragging from a trailer can spark a roadside fire that can end up burning 25, 50 acres. We are in rural Texas.”
The Marion County Sheriff’s Office ensures people don’t violate the burn ban. Marion County residents are also helping.
“Since the Bear Creek fires in 2011, the sheriff’s department and most of the people in this county take the burn ban very seriously. You have a few folks that probably didn’t live there back then, but they get schooled really quick by other residents about how important that is,” he said. “You know, you look at burning a trash pile or brush fire and it turning into a few hundred-acre wildfire, that’s serious business. People don’t realize in the state of Texas if you light a burn pile in the back of your house while the county is in a burn ban, and it turns into a wildfire, and it burns other people’s property, you are liable for all that damage.”
In addition to being financially liable, an individual caught violating the burn ban and causing damage can face extensive criminal charges.
LaFleur has previously said his wife and her family lost their home and all their belongings during the 2011 Bear Creek Fire. That fire burned 41,050 acres and 66 homes in Marion and Cass Counties and remains the largest wildfire in East Texas history.
“We still have to be extremely careful until we get a significant rainfall in our region.”