The countywide burn ban is still on - for now.
At a special meeting Thursday morning, Somervell County Commissioners decided to take no action on the burn ban they recently extended. They wanted to see whether it will rain enough this weekend to consider lifting the ban on Monday when the commissioners meet again in regular session.
County Judge Mike Ford said he decided to call the special meeting after receiving calls from county residents requesting that the ban be lifted.
Fire Marshal Dwayne Griffin made no recommendation one way or another, but presented the latest data from the Texas Forest Service that indicated Somervell County is under "moderate" risk for fire and is barely above "extreme conditions" for fire under the drought index used by the forest service to determine wildfire potential.
"With that being said, this would be a good time to lift the fire ban," Griffin said.
On the other hand, Griffin said, there is still plenty of dry grass and limbs throughout the county.
"This is our worst fire season we've ever had in the state of Texas," Griffin told commissioners. He noted that since January about 2.4 million acres have burned and more than 1,100 homes lost.
Griffin said his concern is that although it may rain this weekend, several days afterward the fire risk could rise when things dry out again.
"Personally, I have a ton of limbs that need to be burned," he said. "But why it is it so important to strike a match now during the worst fire season in the state?"
Greg Marsh, who lives out in the FM 56 area, spoke against lifting the ban yet.
"Living out there on a rock hill, I'm not in favor of it at all," he said. "Lots of grass is still dry and will burn big time."
Rob Robinson agreed, saying it was prudent to wait.
"Let's wait for another week at least and see how much rain we'll get," he said. "Yes, the grass is green, but it's still dry."
County Justice of the Peace Scott May was the only one at the public hearing to speak in favor of lifting the ban.
"There are a lot of us that do use burning on our farms," May noted. "As a former fire marshal, I know the positive efforts of education. We need to educate our residents" on how how to burn properly and safety.
May said he would like to see the county adopt a permit program for burning so that if someone wanted to burn a pile, he or she could apply to the county. The fire marshal then could take a look at the area. He might decide the pile was too close to a cedar break, May noted.
"Unfortunately, some people don't have common sense" when it comes to burning, he added.
Griffin said that concerned him, too, as did the wind, which has been blowing very hard at times this spring.
"That's my biggest concern," he added. "The way things are, if the wind picks up and dries out the grass, it doesn't take much for an ember to start a wildfire."
"I'd be in favor of waiting until Monday to see if we've got rain," Commissioner James Barnard said. "I've got a lot of burning to do, too."
Commissioner John Curtis said he'd had no requests from residents in Precinct 2 to lift the ban.
With so much dry fuel in "close proximity to housing additions, I'm not in favor" of lifting the ban, he said.
Commissioner Zach Cummings said he had received one request.
"I think we can wait unitl Monday," he said.
"If we weren't meeting that soon (this Monday), I'd be for lifting it, but this will give us a little more insurance," Commissioner Lloyd Wirt added.
Ford agreed it would be better to take no action yet.
"We barely scraped by not long ago (with the March wildfires) and after watching what happened around PK (Possum Kingdom Lake), it's not worth the risk to houses" and other property and especially lives, he said.