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2013-09-19

Despite rains, burn ban means just that!

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Pictured:
Despite a series of recent late afternoon pop-up showers, a burn ban remains in effect for Bandera County. To check on its status, contact the sheriff's department at 830-796-3771.





Nine grassfires last week gave Bandera County Fire Marshal John Stith an idea that perhaps the still-imposed burn ban needed further clarification, such as "the burn ban is still in effect."
On August 29, the Bandera County Courier reported that commissioners court had re-instituted a countywide burn ban effective immediately due to prolonged and severe drought conditions. The ban prohibits all outdoor burning except for burns conducted in specially designed barrels.
However, afternoon pop-up rain showers occurring for several consecutive days apparently gave some landowners in the Castle Lake area that "it would be a good day to burn." As evidenced from the spate of grassfires, it wasn't. To reiterate, the burn ban remains in effect.
"Dead vegetation is not revitalized by rain," Stith explained. "When the showers stop and the sun comes out, grasses dry and a full fuel load is still present. Conditions remain volatile."
For any change in the drought status, sustained rain would have to occur for five, six or seven days in a row, he said. Stith added, "Additionally, it would be very difficult and confusing to have the ban on one day and off the other then back on and off again just because of a shower or two."
While acknowledging that some ultra-cautious landowners can burn brush without incident, Stith noted, "Rules are made for everyone and the burn ban was initiated for reasons of public safety."
Even without a burn ban, there are certain conditions under which burns should not be undertaken and rules that must be adhered to, Stith said. For example, burning should not be conducted when wind and meteorological conditions would adversely affect neighbors or livestock. If burning causes smoke to cross or blow into a road or highway, the person who initiated the burning is required to post flagmen on affected highways.
Burning must be conducted at least 300 feet downwind of homes on adjacent properties unless prior written approval has been obtained from the adjacent occupant.
Another important consideration to keep in mind is that burning must not begin earlier than one hour after sunrise and must be completed one hour before sunset. And a responsible person must be on the burn site at all times.
"People tend to forget that hardwoods burn and smolder for a long time," Stith said. If residual fires or smoldering continues after dark, extinguishers must be used. At no time can any burn be allowed to fire up after dark.
Even during periods where outdoor burning is allowed, it is restricted on "red flag" days that exhibit decreased humidity and increased wind velocity. Burning cannot be initiated when surface wind is predicted to be less than six miles per hour or greater than 23 mph during the expected burn period.
And, last - but not least - whether the ban is on or off, the following items cannot ever be tossed on a burn pile:
• Electrical insulation
• Treated lumber
• Plastics
• Non-wood construction or demolition maters
• Heavy oils and asphaltic materials
• Potentially explosive materials and chemical wastes
• Items containing natural or synthetic rubber
When the burn ban is removed, open burning is allowed. If unsure about whether a burn ban is in effect, Stith recommended, "Before anyone plans a burn other than household trash in a barrel, they should call the sheriff's office at 830-796-3771 and ask about the status of the burn ban." And, as a precaution, he also advocated calling the nearest volunteer fire department and informing them of any plans to burn.
"Bandera County been incredibly lucky during these years of drought and we want to keep it that way," Stith said.