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Burn ban removed

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Rainfall and cooler temperatures that have appeared in Bandera County this month convinced Bandera County Judge Richard Evans, with the concurrence of the county’s volunteer fire departments, to lift the burn ban that had been imposed on outdoor burning in the county since July 23.

Evans advised Bandera County Commissioners’ Court of his decision on Thursday, Sept. 10, saying he had lifted the ban as of 9:30 a.m. that day.

Evans said the Keetch-Byram Drought Index, which is one of the studies examined in making decision about drought conditions and fire potential, had dipped below the 575 mark that was the generally accepted trigger for the imposition of burn bans.

In addition, recent rainfall had greened up grasses in the area and had added welcome moisture to cedar trees, which can burn quickly when dried out and turn small brush fires into regionwide concerns.

“We want people to burn when they can so we don’t have a lot of fuel for fires,” the judge said.

Evans said with two-and-a-half-to-three inches of rain in the county in the last few weeks, he and the county’s volunteer fire chiefs were satisfied that the burn ban could be lifted without creating much danger that small fires would race rapidly out of control.

One website that estimates rainfall across the state said parts of Bandera County received more than 2.9 inches of rain on Sept. 4, and last week, rains returned, leaving other areas of the county with more than a half-an-inch of rainfall.

“We all agreed with the decision,” said Bandera County Fire Marshal John Stith. “It’s greened up a lot.”

The ban had made it illegal to burn trash or brush piles outdoors in the county unless that debris could be placed in a container with a fine-mesh cover. Those caught violating the ban risked being charged with a Class C misdemeanor offense and facing a fine of up to $500.

While the judge had the authority to lift the ban on his own, Commissioners’ Court must vote again to reestablish the ban, officials said.

They also encouraged anyone planning an outdoor burn to let the Bandera County Sheriff’s Department know of his or her plans so officials are aware of where a burn is taking place and can respond more effectively if a problem arises or calls of concern come in.

The sheriff’s office can be reached at 830-796-3771.

The sheriff’s office also said on its Facebook page that even though the ban had been removed, no burning should take place before daylight or any later than an hour before dark, that all fires should be attended and that people conducting a burn should be cautious when burning near a building or a brushy area.