Controlled burn helps officials fight fires better

HOUSTON - Fire officials in La Marque said they hope intentionally setting a grass fire on Wednesday will help them gain some valuable knowledge.

The dry field of prairie grass was full of monitoring equipment, scientists and fire fighters, officials said.

"We had over 45 anomometers, 10 turbulence sensors inside the fire and many other devices," the director of the Fire Weather Research Lab, Craig Clements, Ph.D., said.

With a weather balloon aloft, helicopters in place, it was time to light the fire. The 150 acres lit up and moved quickly from north to south -- just what, officials said, they wanted to see.

"It moved very much like a real fire would, and that's what was important for us today," said Richard Gray with Texas A&M Forest Service. "It was in our environment to help us find safer and better ways to fight fires."

Gray was on the front lines of the Bastrop fire in 2011. He and others said Wednesday's fire was just the kind of lab they needed.

"This represents a fire in a free-burning environment. It's just the kind of information we need as we're planning to fight fires in the future," said Clemments. "To document that with the cameras and equipment. The information is critical to understand fire behavior."

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