One unsafe act could turn the holiday season into a season of sorrow and personal tragedy, so the Texas Forest Service urges increased attention to outdoor fire safety over the holiday season because hard frosts, cooler weather and the upcoming holiday season increase the possibility of wildfires.

“With the freezes we have now experienced across most of the state, grasses and weeds that haven’t already gone dormant will now do so,” said Justice Jones, East Texas fire prevention coordinator with the Texas Forest Service. “This vegetation, along with fallen leaves, increases the amount of fuel available to wildfires. Consequently, the stage is set for possible wildfires should anyone get careless while burning leaves or other debris or using fireworks unsafely around frost-cured vegetation whenever dry conditions prevail.”

Jones suggested the following outdoor fire safety precautions to help prevent outdoor fire tragedies from occurring.

Outdoor fire safety

• Check for and obey any burn bans and fireworks use restrictions. Violations of burn bans or fireworks restrictions not only increase the likelihood of wildfires, they also could cost violators up to $500 in fines.

• When and where outdoor burning is allowed, create a firebreak down to bare dirt around any outdoor fire before lighting and stay with your fire until it is cool to the touch.

• Use a metal grid or grill over burn barrels when burning household trash, including discarded Christmas wrapping paper. Even light winds can carry burning bits of paper or cardboard long distances, where they could drop into flammable vegetation.

• Keep tools and water nearby just in case a wildfire starts. It only takes a small spark or burning ember to ignite dry, fine-textured fuels like grasses.

• Read and follow label instructions on how to properly discharge fireworks.

• Only use fireworks with close adult supervision. Use fireworks only in areas clear of dead, dry grass and weeds; and avoid using fireworks around buildings. Stay far enough away from buildings so that wind won’t carry hot fireworks onto roofs where leaves or other flammable debris may have accumulated. The East Texas prevention leader also recommended taking used natural Christmas trees to a recycling center. Used natural trees can be ground up for mulch or used to help stabilize sand dunes, build structure for fish in a lake or pond or provide shelter for birds and other wildlife, he said.