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Commishes enact countywide burn ban

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

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

What a difference a month and a half makes in the Texas Hill County. Despite the heavy rain that fell throughout the area on Memorial Day weekend, Bandera County Commissioners recently enacted a countywide burn ban.
During a regular meeting on Thursday, July 14, commissioners unanimously approved the 90-day ban on outdoor burning on the recommendation of County Fire Marshal John Stith.
Pointing out the irony of the situation, Judge Richard Evans said, “The county still hasn’t recovered from the flood and the fire marshal wants a burn ban.”
For his part, Stith noted that the current KDBI was at 479 and over the next five days was expected to be 595 to 617.
According to information on the website http://twc.tamu.edu/kbdi, the Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) is used to determine a potential for forest fires. 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.
“There is no significant rain in the foreseeable future and we’ve had six fires in the last two weeks,” Stith said.
The imposition of a countywide burn ban prohibits open burning of brush, household trash and other debris.
However, burning can still be accomplished in specially designed barrels covered with fine mesh screens.
Additionally, welding is still allowed. 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 also been asked to refrain from plying their trade on days when winds exceed 20 miles per hours and on “red flag” days.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Robert “Bob” Grimes asked the court about the disposition of a derelict structure located on recently purchased property to be used for the Pipe Creek Solid Waste Disposal Station. Evans noted that cleanup of the property could be facilitated as a training session for volunteer firefighters.
“This is something I‘ll look into,” Stith said. “The bottom line is if we do it, it must be done safely.”
Concurring, Evans noted, “This court must abide by the rules. We’re not like Congress.”
In an interview on Tuesday, July 20, Stith referenced the six grass fires that had occurred recently throughout the county. Additionally, a structure fire was reported at 12:56 pm, Thursday, July 7, on 32nd Street in Lakehills.
“Someone was burning brush and the fire got away from him and ignited a cottage on adjacent property,” Stith explained. “Conditions were marginal and breezy the day of the fire. Additionally, there was an available fuel load of high grasses.” Although no criminal charges are pending, Stith noted that citizens remain liable for damages caused by out-of-control – albeit it, legal – burns.
Lakehills and Pipe Creek Volunteer Fire Departments responded to the call, but the structure was fully involved by the time firefighters arrived on the scene.
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 whether a burn ban is currently in effect, county residents are asked to call the Bandera County Sheriff’s Office at 830-796-3771.