The Somervell County Commissioners voted in a special session on Monday to enact a 90-day ban on outdoor burning because of the dry conditions that have increased wildfire danger.
The commissioners voted by a 5-0 count to put the ban in place. It does not ban the sale or use of fireworks for the Fourth of July, Somervell County Fire Department Fire Chief Mark Crawford noted.
“We are not allowed to ban fireworks at this point,” Crawford stated. “We ask that people be responsible when enjoying fireworks.”
A measurement known as the Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) is used to help determine the wildfire risk caused by drought conditions and other factors. The KBDI for Somervell County surpassed the 550 mark on Sunday, triggering the need to take action.
“Conditions rapidly changed in the last two weeks,” Crawford said, noting that the KBDI was only about 200 just since the last commissioners meeting, when the topic was discussed.
Crawford noted that the weather forecast at that time was calling for rainfall over about a four-day period, which failed to materialize.
“It didn’t pan out, and the index doubled,” Crawford said. “So it was definitely time.”
Crawford said that Somervell County has not had many major fires recently, but the SCFD has responded with mutual aid to both Erath and Bosque counties several times recently. Crawford mentioned that the Glen Rose area is in a river basin and tends to have a lower fire risk in general, adding, “So we’re being pro-active.”
90 DAYS, UNLESS ...
The ban is set up to last 90 days from the date it was adopted (Monday, July 2). The burn ban order states that it will continue for the 90-day period “unless the restrictions are terminated earlier based on a determination made by either the Texas Forest Service that drought conditions no longer exist, or the Commissioners Court, the county fire marshal or the county judge” (Danny Chambers).
A violation of the burn ban (local government Code 352.081(h) is a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of no more than $500.
While there are some common causes of fires such as cigarettes carelessly tossed onto the ground, outdoor welding and cooking, Crawford noted that other causes are less obvious. They can include a sparks coming off of a chain hanging from a trailer and dragging on the pavement while being transported, or sparks that may occur while using a mowing tractor.
Crawford said that once the burn ban has been discontinued, officials request that anyone who plans on legally burning outdoors call the Somervell County Sheriff’s Office to let them know the location. That will allow firefighters and other first responders to know that information in case they get a 911 fire call in that area.