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Big Country firefighters seeing increased risk of wildfires

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COLEMAN COUNTY, Texas - Coleman County fire officials believe that the dry weather and overgrown vegetation is creating a dangerous hazard ahead of the holiday weekend.

Nine departments battled eight wildfires on Friday, according to the Coleman Fire Department. They blame the lack of any substantial rain the last several weeks as playing a major role.

"We had a total of eight separate fires, in two separate locations, on opposite ends of the county that happened within five minutes of each other," Fire Marshal Jimmy Watson said Monday.

Four of the fires were located alongside U.S. Highway 283. A pickup truck dragging a chain caused that fire, according to the Lake Coleman Volunteer Fire Department. The other four fires were along U.S. Highway 67, prompting responding firefighters to shut a portion of the highway down for 15 minutes.

One of the fires is being blamed on a car accident where an axle got loose and sparked several flames, according to the fire marshal. He said about 20 acres were burned.

Coleman firefighter Duston Crawford worked all eight of Friday's fires. He credits the years of training he's received for preventing heat-related illnesses while out on the job.

"You stay hydrated, [and] you drink a few sports drinks if you have any," Crawford said. "But mostly, it's just water and conditioning."

As for the upcoming Fourth of July weekend, the Coleman Fire Department wants people to use extreme caution when igniting fireworks.

"My ultimate advice is to try to use your fireworks as safely as possible," Watson said. "Try to get away from any combustibles. If you're going to be shooting anything that goes off in the air, try to have a spotter or a portable water source."

Coleman County is currently not under a burn ban, but the Coleman Fire Department will ask commissioners to consider one after the holiday weekend.

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