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2013-08-29

Bandera County's burn ban back

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Taking the advice of Bandera County Fire Marshal John Stith, commissioners enacted a countywide burn ban on Thursday, August 22. The ban was effective immediately.

Referencing the Keetch-Byram Drought Index, Judge Richard Evans noted, "We're one of the highest-rated counties in the state - and in the wrong way." The KDBI is used to determine wildfire potential throughout the State of Texas - and Bandera County seems to have tinderbox potential.

Currently, Bandera County's KBDI average is 724; the maximum was 763; and minimum was 682. KBDI index ranges from 0, which indicates no drought, to 800, which connotes extreme drought.

According to Stith, the county saw an increased spike of grassfires two weeks ago. "Most of the activity occurred in the eastern part of the county because it's a little drier over here," Stith said. "When we starting seeing multiple grass fires, it enforces the need for a burn ban." Consultations with the fire chiefs of county volunteer fire departments indicated a reinstatement of the ban on outdoor burning was in order.

"We've done incredibly well this year, but it's time now," Stith told the court. Most of the counties surrounding Bandera have already imposed burn bans.

"By holding off as long as we did, a lot of ranchers have been able to burn their underbrush," said Precinct 4 Commissioner Doug King. "That helped a lot."

Agreeing with his colleague, Precinct 2 Commissioner Bobby Harris expressed concern about fires possibly occurring in the Avalon subdivision near Medina Lake. He also feared that fires could also be ignited in the exposed lake bottom. "When I left for vacation the first of August, everything was dry, but now brush on the lake bottom is even crispier," Harris said.
Stith noted that household trash and debris could still be burned in specially designed burn barrels covered with fine mesh screens but that the open burning of trash and brush is prohibited.

In addition, under the current burn ban, welding is still permissible. However, Stith urged anyone welding or otherwise working with torches to use a spotter and to have a fire extinguisher or water source close at hand. Historically, welders have also been asked to refrain from plying their trade on days when winds exceed 20 miles per hours and on "red flag" days.

"Considering how dry everything is, we've been very lucky thus far during the drought," Stith said. "I'm just urging everyone to use a commonsense approach when burning - even using specially designed barrels - and welding."

In an interview, he said one recent grass fire burned an acre and a half around a mobile home. "That fire was started by welding sparks," Stith said, adding, "Luckily the mobile home was barely damaged.

To determine if the burn ban has been lifted, county residents are asked to call the Bandera County Sheriff's Office at 830-796-3771.
And, as Evans always notes, "The best way to get rain is to impose a burn ban."