Henderson County Fire Marshal Shane Renberg told Commissioners Court on Tuesday the county is on the cusp of exceeding the dryness threshold that would indicate a burn ban is needed.

The Henderson County average on the Keetch-Byram Drought Index on Tuesday afternoon was 577, two points higher than the threshold the county uses to consider a burn ban. The driest section of the county measured 621 on the scale and the wettest 498.

"It looked like the Malakoff area has the highest reading right now, Renberg said.

Commissioners Court took no action on a burn ban on Tuesday, but will look at the question again next week.

The index is used to assess the risk of fire on a range from zero, the point of no moisture deficiency, to 800, the maximum drought that is possible.

More fires have been reported in the county lately as the fuel load of vegetation has dried.

 If the reading reaches 800, it takes approximately 8 inches of rain for the soil to reach saturation.

"We had three grassfires yesterday, for example," Renberg said. "When the wind is low, and you still have fires spreading quickly, it's becoming an issue."

On Tuesday, 104 Texas counties were under a burn ban, including the three to Henderson County's west, Ellis, Navarro and Freestone.

"Even if we have rain, it's not going to change this fuel load," Precinct 4 Commissioner Ken Geeslin said. "It'll just dampen it for a few days."

Renberg said it's not just grasses that are dying, but the canopy as well.

"The lower lying brush and trees that sometimes a grass fire won't catch, once they start to dry out, we have a bigger issue,"

Precinct 3 Commissioner Chuck McHam said having a possible burn ban on the agenda should alert the public that fire danger is increasing.

"That's one reason we're putting it on there," County Judge Wade McKinney said. "At least we're getting the discussion started."

Precinct 1 Commissioner Scottie Thomas said he'd like to watch the situation for a week and discuss it again at next week's meeting.

Geeslin asked Renberg to poll all of the fire chiefs in the county before the next meeting to see where they stand on setting a ban.

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