Athens Review, Athens, Texas

August 6, 2013

Burn ban again

It’s dry, and county votes to reinstate

Rich Flowers
The Athens Review

Athens — Prompted by an extremely dry west end of the county, the Henderson County Commissioners Court reinstated the burn ban, Tuesday.

The vote to enact the ban was 4-to-1, with Precinct 3 Commissioner Ronny Lawrence, who said he doesn’t like burn bans in general, the dissenting vote.

County Fire Marshal Shane Renberg said several fire chiefs on the west side of the county requested the county take action.

“They’re begging me for a burn ban,” Renberg said. “Small fires are getting big quickly.”

Add a little wind to the drying conditions and there is a good chance of significant grass fires in areas like Seven Points, Trinidad and Tool and as far east as the Eustace area, Renberg said.

The Keetch-Byram Drought Index, which measures the moisture in the soil, had Henderson County with an average of 577 on the scale on Tuesday morning. The county often uses 575 as the threshold for implementing a ban.

The dry west side of the county was at 665 on the 800-point scale on Tuesday.  The lowest rating was 440 in the northeast portion of the county.

The Texas Forest Service projects the county average will reach 677 in two weeks. The driest part of the county will reach  729 and even the portion of the county with the most moisture will have a rating of 593.

According to the state outdoor burning statute, violation of an outdoor burning restriction is a Class C misdemeanor and is punishable by a fine up to $500. There are certain exceptions to the ban, including: Firefighter training; public utility, Texas Department of Public Safety, natural gas pipeline or mining operations; planting or harvesting of agricultural crops; or burns that are prescribed by a licensed burn manager.

Commissioners also voted to:

• approve contracts authorizing the Henderson County Tax Assessor Collector to collect taxes for the Brownsboro Independent School District and the Lakeview Management and Development District;

• approve the Democratic Party list of election workers for 2014;

• approve an agreement with JP Morgan Chase Bank eFiling services for the Henderson County Clerk’s office and the District Clerk’s office; and

• authorize payment of bills in the amount of $131,496.01.