|Rains lower drought index for county; burning ban could be eased next week|
|Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor|
July 19, 2005 -- Although the county has received an appreciable amount of rain over the past several days, county commissioners say the burn ban is still in effect.
The ban was to be effective for a 90-day period, but Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap said Tuesday consideration will be given to relaxing the restriction, perhaps as early as next week.
"I have talked to the commissioners over the past week about how much precipitation they have received in their precincts," the judge said. "They have gotten a little bit, but they want to hold off on lifting the burn ban until this weekend and take a second look at it next Monday."
On Monday, members of the commissioners court will take a look at the drought index used by the Texas Forest Service as they consider action on the ban on outdoor burning, which was first implemented on July 5 in an emergency order by Millsap and was followed up with the order from the court.
While burning brush is still prohibited, the judge said cooking outdoors was not against the law, and if properly handled, trash can still be burned.
"I would suggest that if anybody has a situation in which they need to burn in a closed container, that is quite all right, as long as they have a lid or something to prevent sparks and embers from getting out of the barrel," he said. "I would caution they need to keep a water hose or other water supply close to make sure fire does not get out of and away from the container -- just use common sense."
In the past two weeks, sheriff's deputies have responded to complaints of county residents regarding trash being burned and several instances in which land owners were burning brush which, until the burn ban is lifted, is against the law.
The judge emphasized the ban is currently in effect and outdoor burning can result in a citation for a misdemeanor offense that could mean as much as a year in jail and a hefty fine.
Recent rains have lowered the severity of the drought-like conditions in the county. When the ban first went into effect on July 5, drought indexes showed Hopkins County to be in the 600 to 700 range, with each 100 representing an inch of soil dryness. Hopkins County overall was ranked at 624. The driest portions of the county ranked 705 on Monday's drought index, with the less drought-consumed areas ranked at 547.
Currently, the county's overall rating is at 498. The driest parts of the county are in the Cumby-Miller Grove and Reilly Springs areas, where the drought index numbers are in the 650 range. The southeastern part of the county is the least dry at 371 on the index.