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July 23, 2013

County’s 2-week-old burn ban expires

Athens — The Henderson County Commissioners Court let the 2-week-old burn ban expire on Tuesday by taking no action on an agenda item to extend it.

Fire Marshal Shane Renberg said the recent rains have moved the county average on the Keetch Byrum drought index to 432, far below the threshold of 575 that indicates the need for a burn ban.

When the ban was installed on July 9, the county was averaging 588 on the Index. The KBDI is based on a measurement of moisture in the soil.

Renberg said parts of western Henderson County are now at 571 on the index, while portions of the east go as low as a moist 218.

Renberg said the Commissioners Court could take advantage of the current favorable KBDI reading to give property owners a window of opportunity to burn before conditions dry up.

“The average is down, but I don’t expect it to take long to bring it back up,” Renberg said. “I think we’re in for a little bit of rain this weekend. Then the temperatures will continue to get hotter.”

Renberg said there have been at least 41 grass fires in the county in July.

“Our fire calls haven’t changed. They’re still going on,” Renberg said. “We’ve had 31 calls for burn-ban violations.”

In 2012, when part of the county was considerably drier than the other, Commissioners instituted a burn ban for the half of the county west of State Highway 19.

 “We had instances last year, when believe it or not, we had people burning on one side of 19 and people burning on the other.,” Renberg said. “People on this side of 19 didn’t like being told to put their fire out.”

In other action, Commissioners:

• heard an update from Bob McDonald on the progress of the Henderson County Veteran’s Memorial being constructed at the East Texas Arboretum;

• accepted a 2013 Gold Leadership Circle Award for the county from the Texas Comptroller’s Office for financial transparency;

• approved the sale of a 2003 Ford Crown Victoria to the Caney City Police Department for $1,000;

• approved an inmate housing contract between Henderson County and the incorporated cities of Henderson County;

• approved allowing the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office to enter an interagency agreement with the East Texas Auto Theft Task force;

• approved an interlocal agreement between the city of Tool and the county for assistance on repairs on Arnold Hills Road; and

• approved payment of bills in the amount of $375,499.57.

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