Hays County commissioners voted unanimously Jan. 8 in favor of lifting the county’s burn ban.
Burn bans go into effect when the county has a rank of 575 according to the Keetch-Byram Drought Index. The drought index can reach between 600 and 700 during the summer months, but recent measures provided by Texas A&M. AgriLife Research have shown an index between 300 and 500 for much of Hays County. Only small portions have seen drought indexes of 500 or higher. Despite this improvement, Clint Browning, assistant fire marshal, reminded the commissioners court that the county is still experiencing dryness.
“Even though it is raining, we are still very dry,” Browning said. “Everything’s dead. There is some moisture, but we have a situation that what is there is not just dry, it’s dead. Raining on it isn’t going to make the grass green.”
Browning spoke in place of Fire Marshalwho was hospitalized earlier during the week. Browning warned about the amount of dead material in the county and said those who do start burning should exercise caution.
Under a burn ban, outdoor burning is prohibited in the county’s unincorporated areas with certain exceptions, such as grilling on gas or coal. Commissioner Will Conley, Precinct 3, said another such example could be local farmers who burn cacti to use as cattle feed, a situation he said he discussed with Chambers.“
(Chambers) said that was an acceptable practice, as long as (the farmers) would be held accountable,” Conley said. “That’s their livelihood. That’s reasonable.”
Each city in the county has their own ordinances for restricting burning whenever the commissioners declare a ban. Wimberley’s city council recently passed an ordinance to enact burn bans whenever the county does so, similar to Kyle and Buda. San Marcos, however, prohibits outdoor burning within city limits.
“I would encourage municipalities to be thinking about what they can do for themselves and use their judgment,” said County Judge Bert Cobb.
Browning said he’s hopeful that forecasts for heavier rains will prove true. However, he hopes the rain will not be as heavy as previous storms, which flooded his office.
“Given the amount of rain we’re supposed to see, we are comfortable if you choose to lift the burn ban, and we can always re-evaluate in a week and see where we’ve gone,” Browning said.
The burn ban will remain a weekly item on the commissioners’ court agenda so they can review and continue to confirm the lift. Cobb can call the burn ban into effect if he feels it is necessary between meetings, or if he is alerted to drought conditions by the fire marshal.
Browning also extinguished the court’s concerns about wildfires. “We have had minimal fires,” Browning said. “Most of the fires that have occurred have been small and have not been quickly moving.”