HAYS COUNTY — Hays County Commissioner Court reinstated a burn ban for at least 90 days to prevent and lessen the number of fires that can arise countywide last Tuesday.
The decision means no more burning on residential/private property is permitted and a fine could be the result of not following the order. Only if discussed and cleared with the fire marshal’s office is someone allowed the ability to burn on the unpermitted property.
The importance of a burn ban is about protecting life, property, and livestock from destruction as difficult weather times are happening.
Imposing burn bans are typically for a state like Texas, and are seen as the protocol for the frequent climate issues. For three years, serious drought conditions have continued in central Texas, making the area much more prone to having burn bans in place.
Current weather conditions in Hays County are hot and dry with afternoons that can be windy, so fires are more uncontrollable and dangerous.
“We live in a drought-prone region of the country. Wildfires can happen at any time, but when our conditions have been extremely dry for prolonged periods of time, the grasses and fuels available mean fires spread more quickly,” according to the Hays County fire marshal website.
The Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) is the system used to determine the probability of forest fires in a specific area.
“The drought index is based on a daily water balance, where a drought factor is balanced with precipitation and soil moisture and is expressed in hundredths of an inch of soil moisture depletion,” according to the Texas Weather Connection Website.
“The drought index determines how dry a county is, how much rainfall we’ve had, and dry fuel is present, then this is the safety measure that we as a county take to prohibit the open fires and burning,” said Walt Smith, commissioner for Precinct 4.
In Hays County, only the commissioner’s court has the authority to mandate and terminate this law. The fire marshal determines after considering what the county’s fire chiefs think about when is the right time to recommend for the commissioners to enforce the rule. Also, the commissioners frequently communicate with the fire marshal regarding the drought index and the possibility of needing a burn ban.
“If you’re near the drought index or just under it and there is a fire that gets out of control that is usually when he (fire marshal) will say it’s time,” said Lon Shell, commissioner for Precinct 3.
On July 8, a brushfire occurred in north San Marcos, called the Vineyard Hills Fire. This happened a couple of days before the burn ban became required again. Every burn ban is a 90-day term, and it is hard to determine the removal of a burn ban.
The rule can be demanded “where counties in the state have had year-long, 18 months or even longer bans,” said Smith.
As of right, how long the burn ban could last cannot be determined. The weather conditions are changing weekly and are judged each day. With the burn ban in effect, it is essential to keep extra water on hand and to be aware.
In addition, the Hays County fire marshal website includes information on the procedures to have in place for when wildfires do break out. Wildfire Action Plan is a useful resource to share with family, friends, and coworkers. It is vital to be ready in case a wildfire endangers your life or belongings.
Written by: Preethi Mangadu