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Motorist parked vehicle in dry grass, igniting 9,500-acre wildfire in San Saba County

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Posted at 2:55 PM, Aug 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-04 16:00:34-04

Firefighters from across the state are battling the still-growing, human-caused Mays Fire in San Saba and McCulloch Counties that was ignited by a motorist.

The fire ignited on Aug. 1, approximately 16 miles east of Brady, Texas, as the result of an individual parking and idling their vehicle over tall, dry grass, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.

The fire has currently burned an estimated 9,500 acres and is only 50% contained.

Over the past several days, significant wildfire activity has increased statewide, particularly in central portions of the state where rainfall has been minimal. Accelerated drying of vegetation has elevated the potential for new wildfire starts.

According to Les Rogers, Texas A&M Forest Service Chief of Fire Operations, state wildland firefighters have been very busy responding to the increase in wildfire activity across the state. With increased activity, out-of-state responders and equipment have been brought in, under state control, to meet essential needs.

“Numerous out-of-state resources are currently in Texas working together with state personnel to contain wildfires that are burning statewide,” said Rogers.

Over the past seven days, state and local resources have responded to 55 fires that have burned 11,607 acres. Many of the recent wildfire starts have been attributed to humans and their activities—such as debris burning—and are preventable.

“It is officially August in Texas, which means every day is mostly hot and dry,” said Karen Stafford Texas A&M Forest Service Prevention Program Coordinator. “Grasses across the state are quickly drying out and are more susceptible to fire ignitions. Even something as simple as parking on tall dry grass can start a wildfire in these conditions.”

Grass wildfires can spread and grow extremely fast. One of the main causes of grass fires is driving and parking over tall, dry grass. Dry grass will ignite at 500 degrees within seconds of contacting a hot surface, and the exhaust and catalytic converter on vehicles can reach temperatures of 1200–1600 degrees or more, igniting the grass underneath.

To prevent wildfires when operating a vehicle, follow these tips:

  • Avoid parking or driving in grass when possible
  • Stay on designated roads and trails
  • Park on asphalt when parking on the side of the road
  • Make sure chains are secure and not dragging

If a wildfire is spotted, immediately contact local authorities. A quick response can help save lives and property.