House Bill filed to help prevent wildfires in East Texas

House Bill filed to help prevent wildfires in East Texas
Published: Mar. 15, 2023 at 10:56 PM CDT
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LUFKIN, Texas (KTRE) - Wildfires are always a risk in East Texas, especially with the hot summers and long droughts recently.

A house bill is in motion to create and conduct various studies that would establish risk zones.

Earlier this month republican state representative Trent Ashby of Lufkin filed House Bill 4609. The bill calls for the Texas A&M Forest service to do an extensive study of wildfire risk.

“Wildfires are uncontrolled and can be catastrophic,” said Jake Donellan, the department head for the Forest Service’s East Texas operations.

He said Texas had over 12,400 wildfires across the state and 90% of them were human-caused.

“Usually, a combination of carelessness due to poor burning practices,” said Donellan.

HB 4609 states the study is to establish wildfire risk zones by determining the conditions of fuel loading - which refers any material that will burn .

Donellan said that in Texas, natural vegetation is the main source. “If you have an abundance of grass in the spring and then in the summer and winter it’s all dried out, that increases the fuel loading.”

The bill also states the risk zones are to be based on the possibility of wildfires affecting life, property, and the ecosystem “and certainly those are the things we tried to avoid most. Really is to try protect their homes and their lives,” said Donellan.

Requiring the governors signature, the act will take immediate effect if it receives a vote of 2/3 of both the House and Senate. If not, it takes effect in September.