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2015-08-20

Get out barrels, burn ban back

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Signs along highways and roads in Bandera County indicate that a burn ban is now in effect.

In its heart, Bandera County knew it wouldn't last. In spite of a much-appreciated surfeit of rain in early spring that finally broke the five-year drought, summer and its dry times arrived with a vengeance.
Due to the now-parched earth experiencing only minimal precipitation in the last couple of weeks - months? - Bandera County Commissioners imposed a countywide burn ban during the Thursday, August 13, meeting.
Following the recommendation of Fire Marshal John Stith, commissioners voted unanimously to instate a 90-day moratorium on outdoor burning except in specially designed barrels.
"For the last two weeks, we've had seven fires due to welding incidents and the carelessness of people," Stith told the court. "Kendall and Kerr counties have already put burn bans in place. Conditions are bad even though we've had a little rain. But, dead is dead."
In an earlier interview, Stith had explained, "Dead vegetation is not revitalized by rain. When the showers stop and the sun comes out, grasses dry and a full fuel load is still present. Conditions remain volatile."
He also noted that Bandera County's current KDBI of 581 and is projected to rise to 682 in the next two weeks. According to information on the website http://twc.tamu.edu/kbdi, the Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) is used to determine forest fire potential. The drought index 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 a drought index of 0 representing no moisture depletion, and an index of 800 indicates absolutely dry conditions.
Because he felt open burning of brush, household trash and other debris represented a danger to the community, as well as to the overloaded volunteer fire departments, Stith recommended imposing a county-wide burn ban.
As Precinct 1 Commissioner Bob Grimes noted, "Historically when the court has approved a burn ban, we get rain." Apparently looking forward to the next downpour, the court unanimously followed Stith's lead with alacrity.
When a countywide burn ban is in effect, household trash and debris must be burned in specially designed barrels covered with fine mesh screens. Open burning of trash and brush is prohibited.
In addition, welding is still allowed even under a burn ban. However, Stith urged anyone welding or otherwise working with torches always to use a spotter and keep a fire extinguisher or water source close at hand. Also, welders have been asked to refrain from plying their trade on days when winds exceed 20 miles per hours and on "red flag" days.
Even with the current wet conditions, Stith urged residents to use common sense when burning - even in specially designed barrels - and when welding.
The public is also reminded that violators of the current burn ban will be charged with a Class C misdemeanor, and, if found guilty, subject to a fine not to exceed $500.
To determine at anytime whether a burn ban is in effect, county residents are asked to call the Bandera County Sheriff's Office at 830-796-3771.
For more information about protecting themselves, their families and their property, from wildfires, residents are urged to visit http://firewise.org/ and www.wildlandfirersg.org.