Smith County Fire Marshal Jay Brooks said the decision to declare a burn ban hinges on today’s Texas A&M Forest Service fire condition report.
The county has been closely monitoring conditions for the past few weeks as fire potential due to lack of rain increased. Brooks said forecasts for drier air and higher winds would likely mean a burn ban for Smith County sooner than later.
“We’ve been watching it but we’re putting it off as long as we can because of the economic impact it has on everyone in the county,” Brooks said. “People should be very careful burning right now.”
Brooks said the Keetch-Byram Drought Index, which measures drought and potential fire conditions, of 708 Tuesday after court. The index ranges from zero to 800 - zero being under water and 800 being extremely arid, combustible conditions.
He said he didn’t believe Monday’s rain was significant enough to prevent declaring a burn ban but wanted to check the official readings.
Implementing an immediate burn ban would require an emergency declaration by County Judge Joel Baker, which only lasts seven days. A vote by commissioners court would be required to implement a burn ban meaning a special meeting would have to be set later at least 72 hours after officials determine a burn ban is needed in order to meet posting requirements within the Open Meetings Act.
The act does allow special meetings to be called immediately in emergency situations as long as the county makes sufficient attempts to notify the public.
Brooks recommends burning debris or burn piles in the morning when humidity levels are highest and to make sure there is a means of preventing flames to spread, such as a water hose or fire extinguisher.
He said people should be mindful of tall, dry grasses, dead leaves and other debris that fuel wildfires.
Fires should never be left unattended. It is illegal to burn when winds exceed 23 mph at any time, and 15 to 20 mph winds are considered dangerous, because embers can spread in the air and flames can move across dead grass and debris quickly.