Smith County burn ban threat lifted thanks to rains; meteorologist forecasts end to 100-degree days

Courtesy photo/ MCT Graphics

Smith County's drought condition index dropped more than 100 points in some areas over the weekend, taking the county away from the brink of a burn ban.

Last week, Smith County Fire Marshal Connie McCoy Wasson told the Commissioners Court it would need to consider enacting a burn ban if the weekend rains did not go as forecasted.

On Tuesday, she was happy to report the rains dropped the county's burn ban potential.

"God has blesses us," she told the court Tuesday. "At this time, I would suggest waiting before we put on a burn ban."

Last week, the county was averaging a 658 on the Keetch-Byram Drought Index, which measures drought and potential fire conditions. The index ranges from 0 to 800 - 0 being under water and 800 being extremely arid, combustible conditions. Ms. Wasson said burn bans generally are called around the 700 mark.

After a weekend of rainfall, the county was averaging 580, down 78 points. She said some southern portions of Smith County were a 263 on the scale.

Tyler received an inch to an inch and a half of rain over the weekend, said KYTX CBS19 Meteorologist Doc Deason. Pockets in the southeast, near Arp, received two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half inches of rain, he said.

"This is a heck of an event to get in August," Deason said. "When you get into August, it's a good thing, and this will do a lot to help us in the heat department as we head into the later part of the month, which is normally a really hot time for us."

The next seven days will bring more rain, and lower temperatures, with highs in the upper 80s. Deason said the area is not forecasted to crack 100.

"Last year at this time we had a turndown like this - almost to the exact day - and we didn't see 100 again until the end of the season," he said. "We are losing about a minute of daylight a day, and as we put less and less sun on the scene, that helps us. We are heading in the right direction."

The rain caused Anderson County to lift its burn ban, but as of Tuesday, Henderson and Van Zandt Counties were still prohibiting outside burning.

Smith County Commissioners said they were glad to have avoided a ban, citing its affect on commercial business.

Ms. Wasson said burn bans particularly affect welders.

"We don't want to stop people's business," she said, adding they are still allowed to weld. "They fill out a permit with times and locations where they will be burning. They have to have a source of water and a spotter."

Local fire departments are then notified of where and when the burning will occur, she said.

But, so far this fire season, Ms. Wasson said the public has been cautious. Even as the county was eyeing a potential burn ban, there were only two calls for grassfires in the county last week.

"The citizens have been great," she said. "They have been responsible with their burning."

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Faith Harper is an East Texas native working for her hometown newspaper. She specializes in digital content for the Tyler Morning Telegraph. In her spare time, she loves tacos, road trips and is currently learning to sail.