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2012-12-20

No burn ban, stick rockets or finned missiles

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Bandera County Commissioners appear to be honing their precipitation-producing skills. Just discussing the possible imposition of a countywide ban on outdoor burning seems to have served to ensure rain the following day.
Prior to voting on the burn ban, Judge Richard Evans noted presciently, "When we impose a burn ban, it always rains the next day." Currently, the mere mention of a ban seems sufficient to make the rains fall.
According to Bandera County Fire Marshal John Stith, none of the fire chiefs across the county recommended reinstating the burn ban. "There have been no fires so I recommended we leave it as is," he told the court. "The judge can put it on in an emergency basis if conditions change."
Stith noted the 14-day average for the Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) in Bandera County is 620. Used to determine forest fire potential, the KBDI is based on a daily water balance, where a drought factor is balanced with precipitation and soil moisture. The drought index ranges from 0 to 800, with 0 representing no moisture depletion and 800 signifying absolutely dry conditions.
Stith also noted that the moisture content of the county's myriad cedars remains good.
As Precinct 4 Commissioner Doug King observed about outdoor burning, "Twenty people do it right and only one lets (the fire) get away from them."
Unless Evans initiates a seven-day disaster declaration in the face of a soaring KDBI, commissioners voted 4-0 not to impose a burn ban.
"We're in fire season, but right now everything's still fine," Stith said, advocating the status quo be maintained.
On the other hand, the usual pyrotechnic suspects - stick rockets and missiles with fins - will not be flying through the air during the coming holiday celebrations. "We're giving Commissioner Keese an opportunity to vote against this one more time," Evans quipped.
Even mindful of citizens' rights to light up the sky with impunity, Precinct 3 Commissioner Richard Keese traditionally votes against imposing restrictions on any rockets' red glare.
"Kendall and Kerr counties have no restrictions, but Bandera County is a little drier," Stith said.
He added that the fireworks industry is becoming more self-regulatory. "They're just not producing these kinds of aerials anymore," Stith explained. "Once the current stock is gone, they'll be gone." He noted other aerial pyrotechnics are equally as effective but not nearly as dangerous in dry conditions.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Bruce Eliker's motion to ban stick rockets and missiles with fins was seconded by Precinct 2 Commissioner Bobby Harris. However, after King and Keese voted against the ban, Evans broke the tie by casting his vote in favor of the ban.
For the record, a countywide burn ban does not have to be in place for the soon-to-be-obsolete-but-still-offensive fireworks to be verboten.