Texas Gov. Rick Perry has certified that 216 counties in Texas, including Nueces County, are threatened by extreme fire hazard conditions. The governor last week renewed a January proclamation and declared a state of disaster in those counties, based on the existence of the threat.

Strong winds and dropping relative humidity have caused the National Weather Service to issue red flag warnings and fire weather watches for large portions of Texas during the past week.

"Many parts of Texas have had hard freezes, and the vegetation is dormant and is not taking on much moisture even with the rain that is normally associated with passing cold fronts," said Tom Spencer, State Fire Risk Assessment Coordinator for the Texas Forest Service.

"While there has been some rain in the past 60 days and the soil has retained some moisture, surface grasses have dried out considerably," Spencer added. As a result, weather conditions will be similar to those that occurred nearly two weeks ago when the Texas Forest Service responded to more than 50 fires that scorched some 2,400 acres throughout Texas.

The Corpus Christi Fire Department is asking citizens to be "extremely cautious during this period of critical fire danger." Some precautions suggested by the department include:

*Check with county officials to see if there are restrictions on outdoor burning.

*Construct wide firebreaks around any outdoor fire before igniting it, and stay with your fire until it is out and cold to the touch.

*Instead of open campfires, consider using alternatives such as propane heaters and stoves for heating and cooking, so no sparks and coals are produced.

*Make sure barbecue coals are out prior to disposal, and never transport barbecue pits or grills with live coals or burning embers. When grilling, place your barbecue over cement and douse the coals thoroughly with water when finished.

*Crush smoking materials until they are cold, then dispose of carefully.

*Avoid parking vehicles in dry grass or leaves where the hot pollution control equipment could come into contact with dry vegetation.

*Avoid setting chainsaws or other small engines with hot mufflers in dry grass or leaves.

*Store flammable liquids properly.

*Remove dry vegetation from under electric fences.

*When welding, use a spotter, clear the area of dry vegetation, and have a water source handy.