Hays County Commissioners voted Tuesday to reinstate the countywide burn ban in unincorporated areas, three weeks after it was lifted.
The ban was reinstated on recommendation of Fire Marshal, who cited the county’s rising drought index as cause for concern. The commissioners voted 4-0 to approve the ban. Commissioner Will Conley, Precinct 3, was absent from the meeting.
Chambers said the drought index currently sits at 497, a level where it had remained for the previous week. A drought index nearing 575 is an indication to consider a ban, though it is not always an accurate measure.
“(The drought index) is not moving, and there’s a lot of fuel out there,” Chambers said, referring to the high amount of dead grass in the county.
Judge Bert Cobb said the dead grass can make the index unreliable because it often measures dryness in soil but doesn’t factor any material that could fuel fires.
Chambers cited a red flag warning from the National Weather Service regarding high winds, which were expected to last from Tuesday to Wednesday afternoon. While several days of rain were predicted for the county, Chambers said there wasn’t going to be as much precipitation afterward.
“There’s nothing out there for the next week as far as precipitation,” Chambers said. “I recommend we put the burn ban back in place for the safety of the citizens of Hays County.”
Violators of the burn ban can receive a Class C misdemeanor and a $500 fine. After a burn ban is imposed, it will remain in effect for 90 days before county commissioners can re-examine it.
“If something changes, like we have thunderstorms or rain for three or four days in a row, we can lift it, because we have enough moisture on the ground,” said Commissioner Debbie Gonzales Ingalsbe, Precinct 1.
The burn ban was previously lifted on Jan. 8, with a warning from Assistant Fire Marshal Clint Browning it could possibly be short.