Brazos County commissioners unanimously approved a 90-day burn ban at their weekly meeting Tuesday morning, with County Judge Duane Peters absent.
No outdoor burning is allowed while the ban is in effect. The ban went into effect Tuesday morning.
Jason Ware, deputy emergency management coordinator for the county, cited consultations with three area fire chiefs and the Keetch-Byram Drought Index, a measure of fire potential, as reasons for the ban. The drought index ranges from 0 to 800, with 0 representing no moisture depletion and an index of 800 meaning absolutely dry conditions.
Ware said that the county’s index readings ranged from 658 on the high side to a 572 on the low side.
“We’re getting really dry out there,” Ware said. “Yesterday we were at 651 on the high side, and today we’re at 658, so it’s steadily increasing." He said after the meeting that the sustained high temperatures of over 100 degrees seen and felt throughout the Brazos Valley in recent days also contributes to the need for a burn ban.
Michele Meade, emergency management coordinator for Brazos County, said that her office also monitors wind speed and direction as well as humidity levels when weighing whether to recommend a burn ban. Lower humidity levels and dangerously high temperatures create an increased fire risk, she said.
Precinct 2 commissioner Sammy Catelena, who chaired the meeting in Peters’ absence, said the ban would be in effect for 90 days, with Peters and the court able to revisit and repeal the ban if substantial precipitation made its way to the county or if conditions otherwise changed.
Outdoor cooking and open-flame devices are prohibited during the ban's duration. Cooking devices that utilize propane or natural gas and have a complete and full enclosure are exempted from the ban. Wood or charcoal cooking devices that have an enclosure also are exempt, provided the surrounding area is clear of vegetation and combustible materials.
Welding may be allowed if a spotter is provided for each welder, cutter or grinder, as well as for any activity that could cause a spark. A minimum radius of 25 feet or three times the height of the welding, whichever is greater, must be maintained; at least 100 gallons of water must be kept on site; and a minimum of one water-pressure fire extinguisher per spotter must be maintained. Welding is not allowed if winds are greater than 20 miles per hour or relative humidity is less than 30 percent. Welders must give notice to the Brazos County risk manager or Brazos County Emergency Services by calling 361-3888.
As of today, 104 Texas counties are enforcing burn bans, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service. Brazos Valley counties under burn bans include Robertson, Milam, and Brazos.