FORT WORTH - The fire threat in North Texas is rising again as moisture levels drop in soil and vegetation.
Authorities say multiple Fourth of July fires illustrate the problem.
It's illegal to sell or shoot off fireworks in Fort Worth. Fire fighters confiscated about a dozen garbage bags full of them this week.
From Saturday through Wednesday, Fort Worth alone responded to more than 50 grass fires, including one that threatened homes on Wednesday. Residents say they heard fireworks, then saw smoke.
In unincorporated Tarrant County, where fireworks are legal, 911 lines lit up Wednesday night.
"It was like chaos," said Randy Renois, Tarrant County Fire Marshal.
"We had 36 grass fires last night," he said. "That's more than we had last year."
Fifty percent more.
In 2011, North Texas was deep into drought by this time. Daily drought index maps show moisture levels rapidly dropping again, as counties turn from green, to yellow, to orange. Collin and Denton Counties are especially dry.
Red is the highest fire threat. There are no red splotches on the map of North Texas, yet.
"It's changed significantly in the last week, I'd say," Renois said.
The fire marshal and other officials monitor these maps constantly. But maps only tell them what the Fourth of July showed them.
Thirty-six grass fires in one night, in one county.