Despite that chance of rain or snow we have coming up this week, the risk of wildfires in the panhandle is extremely high. The Governor's office sent out these two warnings this past week. One tells farmers and ranchers how to keep their land safe, and the other tells everyone else what they can do to prevent fires.
Some of the highlights include not throwing cigarettes out the car window and putting connected hoses on all sides of your house... Just in case. Potter County, Randall County, Happy, Stinett.... And that's just the beginning. Dozens of fires have sparked all over the Panhandle over the past few weeks.
"The loss is disastrous to individuals." Willie Wieck is speaking from experience. He's been farming for nearly fifty years and has had eight fires wipe out his entire crop. Ironically, sprinklers are designed to keep the crops growing, but wrong time wrong place, and they could be the very thing that kills them.
"That's a big lightning rod sitting out there. It's the only metal in the field so it has a good chance of hitting it."
And then there's the danger of driving your car through open land.
Wieck says, "The worst thing you can in a field is a road because then anybody driving by thinks by golly we can drive on there too."
But think twice before taking that drive... Your car could ignite a blaze, especially if you've been driving for a while and the catalytic converter is hot. Just ask Willie.
"Truck's brake was dragging and lit it on fire from one end to the other. Burned off about 250 acres in about an hour."
Safety Tips for Non-Farmers, if a fire starts coming towards you:
Turn off all propane tanks.
Wet down or remove shrubs within 15 feet of your house.
Shut off gas at the meter.
Park your car in the direction of escape.
Put combustible patio furniture inside your house.
Seal vents with pre-cut plywood or use commercial seals.
Put lawn sprinklers on roof and near above-ground fuel tanks and wet down the roof.
Close all windows, doors, vents and blinds.
Close interior doors to prevent drafts.