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Commissioner calls for welders to practice fire safety

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County Commissioner Jody Rutherford issued a statement to the Bulletin warning welders of the county to be on alert, extremely careful and prepared while welding in current hot and dry conditions.

According to Rutherford, welding crews need to be prepared with hand pumps – with a spotter – when they are cutting, welding or grinding metal.

Rutherford said this is especially important given a recent fire caused by welders building a fence on FM 187, six miles north of Vanderpool, three miles east of FM 187, on Station “C” Road.

“As dry as it is, and a relative humidity in the 20s, this is a potential disaster,” said Rutherford. “If the green cedar catches fire with the sustained winds we have been having day and night, a cedar fire in this area could burn a thousand acres or more. Loss of property, wildlife, stock, and grazing would be a disaster.”

Rutherford further stressed that this type of wildfire is equally dangerous for area fire departments to battle, as damage to their equipment and tires is a grave concern and happens frequently during these types of wildfires.

Per the National Integrated Drought Information System, Bandera County is in stage D4 exceptional drought conditions, wherein rangeland is dead, the land is extremely sensitive to fire danger and firework restrictions are implemented.

Bandera County currently has a burn ban in effect.

The National Weather Service issued two separate Fire Danger Statements for multiple counties, including Bandera, on July 22 and 28.

The Texas Water Development Board (TWDP) announced Monday drought continues to expand throughout the state, categorizing less than three percent of the state as being drought free.

“The current drought is beginning to approach the extent, but not the intensity of the 2011 drought,” said Dr. Mark Wentzel, Hydrologist with TWDP’s Office of water Science and Conservation.

“By the end of July 2011, drought covered almost all of the state, similar to this year. But exceptional drought covered 75 percent of the state compared to 19 percent this year,” he said.

While the statewide drought may not be as extreme this year compared to 2011, Bandera County’s results are worse.

With the exception of the southwestern tip of the county, Bandera County was classified as being under exceptional drought by TWDP in 2011. This year, the entire county is classified as being under exceptional drought.