McCulloch drouth conditions dangerous; burn ban on hold

Despite the ongoing drouth and the increasingly dry conditions, McCulloch County remains one of the few counties in the region free from a mandatory burn ban. According to McCulloch County Judge Randy Young, when the topic was discussed earlier this year in Commissioners Court, the decision was made not to implement the burn ban. “We’ve had a great deal of luck with everyone using extreme caution,” explained Young. “We just haven’t had any problems. “Apart from one incident several years ago, we’ve never had a problem with people using their best judgement. We didn’t want to force any government in there unnecessarily. “To this date we haven’t had anyone ask that a ban be implemented; however, in the event that that changes, we’ll do it in the drop of a hat.” If and when a burn ban is needed under severe circumstances, an emergency ban could be implemented by Young on a temporary basis until an approval could be handed down by the County Commissioners. Of the 254 Texas counties, 164 have implemented burn bans, and more are likely if weather conditions continue to deteriorate. According to the Texas Forest Service (TFS), an outdoor burning ban is an effective fire prevention tool that helps prevent accidental wildfires from occurring. TFS warns that extremely dry conditions increase the likelihood of larger and more intensely burning wildfires that will be more difficult and dangerous for firefighters to control. Triple-digit heat indexes, coupled with the heat generated by wildfires, place firefighters at great risk for heat stroke and other heat-related injuries. According to the Aug. 21 drouth index map, 199 counties are considered an extreme risk for wildfires, with an additional 51 counties rated at high risk. Since January, volunteer fire departments have responded to 3,335 fires. Of the more than 3,000 fires, 187,326 acres of land were destroyed. Interagency wildfire prevention teams mobilized to locations across the state are working to publicize the extreme wildfire danger and get everyone to adopt safety precautions that will help prevent wildfires from occurring. In light of the relative scarcity of available firefighting manpower and equipment nationally, fire prevention is not an option, it is a necessity if Texas is to avoid becoming a major wildfire battleground. State fire prevention leaders note that the majority of wildfires in Texas are caused by people and their activities’and thus are preventable. In Texas, the leading cause of wildfires is escaped trash and brush-pile burning. TFS urges Texans to: ‘ Postpone outdoor burning, even if their county does not have an outdoor burning ban in effect, until significant rainfall has been received and vegetation is restored; ‘ Avoid parking or driving through tall dry grass. Hot catalytic converters on cars also can ignite dry vegetation; ‘ If welding or using metal-grinding equipment out-of-doors, remove vegetation from the work area or be sure to water down the surrounding area. Keep a fire extinguisher readily available; ‘ Properly dispose of cigarettes and other smoking materials; and ‘ Watch out for rocks or metal when mowing or bush hogging to avoid sparking a wildfire. For a current map of counties with burn bans in place or for more information on fire danger levels in the state, visit http://ticc.fws.gov

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