Athens Review, Athens, Texas

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February 8, 2008

Burn ban is back

Action taken at Friday meeting

Recent grass and brush fires prompted the Henderson County Commissioners Court to institute a 30-day burn ban Friday. Commissioners will revisit the issue March 4 to determine if conditions warrant an extension.

County Judge David Holstein said Henderson County Fire Marshall Stacey Glover and Fire Chief’s Association President Randy Harley recommended the ban in spite of relatively low numbers on the Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KDBI). The index measures the amount of moisture in the soil.

“The index is under 400. In the past when we’d get around 600 to 700 is when we’d start acting,” Holstein said.

According to the Texas Forest Service, a KBDI index between 600 to 800 means conditions are ripe for “intense, deep-burning fires.”

“One of the main problems we’ve had this year is all the moisture we had last year has caused the weeds and grass to grow exceptionally high,” Pct. 1 Commissioner Joe Hall said. “Now, the frost has killed it and it’s waist high in some places.”

“We’ve got grass from one foot to four feet tall. With the wind blowing the way it is, if we got two inches of rain today, it would burn by tomorrow,” Baxter VFD Chief James Brown said. “This is probably the worst year for conditions that I’ve ever seen.”

The Texas Forest Service now lists 182 of the 254 counties in the state as having burn bans in place.

“If you look at the map everyone west of us has a burn ban, but most of East Texas does not. We’re kind of on the dividing line,” Holstein said.

The Texas Local Government Code exempts burning for agriculture purposes from the ban. Commissioners voted to require anyone wishing to conduct an agricultural burn to notify the Henderson County Sheriff’s Department and the local volunteer fire department.

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