CALERA - An 80-acre wildfire torched grazing land west of Calera on Friday, and it could be just the tip of a flaming iceberg.
Four fire departments responded to the blaze which was caused by a burn pile gone wild. Flames towered over firefighters who spent several hours keeping the fire from threatening nearby homes.
“It was fast moving with the wind,” said Calera Fire Chief Brian Norton. “It ran south half a mile from where it started.”
The wind, a lack of rainfall, and low humidity are all big problems helping fuel Oklahoma and North Texas wildfires. The biggest problem, of course, is human error.
“Everybody needs to realize, it’s real dry right now,” Norton said. “Don’t let all the past ice and rain fool you. With this wind, and temperatures getting up to 50 and 60 degrees, it’s raising the fire danger each day.”
Monday could be especially dangerous, with sustained winds around 12-17 m.p.h. and gusts as high as 24. Tropical storm strength - the minimum winds which cause damage to structures - is not far away at 37 m.p.h.
“If you don’t have to burn, then don’t,” Norton said. “Every day that gets warm and windy, we dry out.”
No burn bans are in effect - yet. But the Friday fire started in a burn barrel behind new homes under construction on Timothy Lane near the intersection of Orchard Lane and Leavenworth Trail. Norton believes flames from the barrel ignited dry grass and spread to nearby pastures.
Calera Fire Department initially responded and called in back-up from Durant, Silo and West Bryan County fire departments. The fire torched high-tensile power lines, and Norton said an electrical crew was called to inspect the line but damage was minimal.
He urges people not to start burn piles during this dry spell, which is predicted by the National Weather Service to go through February.
Those who choose to burn should pick low wind days and have a water source handy.
Better yet, Norton says just wait for the spring rains.