Burn ban restrictions eased, but not ended
Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor

Jan. 30, 2006 -- Hopkins County Commissioner's Court approved a measure easing emergency burn ban restrictions on a 3-2 vote Monday morning. 

Restrictions on welding and enclosed burning -- such as in burn barrels and barbecue pits -- were rescinded, but all other forms of outdoor burning as outlined in the burn ban enacted in July remain in effect, according to Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap.

Also, special consideration for brush piles will be given on a case-by-case basis, but with numerous restrictions.

What does that mean for county workers and residents?

Household trash may be burned in a metal barrel with a screen-type lid that covers the entire barrel area, and cooking on barbecue pits and grills with attached lids will also be permitted.

Outdoor welding will also be allowed, provided the following conditions are met: the welder must have water on site or a pressurized water extinguisher (if no water is available a pressurizeded water extinguisher and a 10-pound ABC extinguisher must be on site); the welder has access to phone service at all times so that 911 can be called if a fire breaks out; and two people are present at all times during the welding operations.

Hopkins County Fire Chief Carl Nix also noted that no open ground fires will be permitted, and that during red flag advisory days, no burning of any kind or welding will be permitted. Also, someone must be present at all times during burning, or the person responsible will be considered in violation of the burn ban regulations and could be subject to citation which carries a $500 fine.

"There will be no burning on red flag advisory days, as the red flag supersedes all else," Nix said. "Tomorrow [Tuesday], they're calling for a red flag advisory, so there will be no burning allowed then."

On days when all burning is restricted by red flag advisories, 3x5 solid red flags with white arrows on them will be flown at the courthouse and county buildings, at Hopkins County Fire Station on Weaver Drive, as well as at the various volunteer fire departments and some other public locations.

Another provision in the revised burn ban regulations allows residents and businesses to request permits from Hopkins County Fire Department to burn brush piles. Special consideration to these burns will be evaluated on a case by case basis. Criteria which must be met in order to obtain a permit include:

-- A readily available water source.

-- On-site equipment to contain the fire.

-- Attendance to the fire at all times during burning; no unattended fires allowed.

-- Proximity to roadways and residences, as burning cannot affect these areas;

-- Size of the piles, which can be no taller than 10 feet and no longer than 20 feet.

-- The burn area's fire department accessibility.

-- The burn will last only one day.

Anyone seeking a burn permit  for small brush piles should contact Hopkins County fire officials via the county judge's office at 903-438-4006 or Hopkins County Sheriff's Office at 903-438-4040. Callers will need to leave their name and contact number with officials, and a fire representative will get back to them to evaluate the situation to determine whether it would be safe to issue a permit allowing them to burn. Also, any questions regarding the burn ban and permits should be directed to fire officials through those numbers.

Anyone burning brush piles without a permit will also be subject to the $500 citation.

The easing of the burn ban was decided on a 3-2 vote, with Commissioners Beth Wisenbaker and Burk Bullock approving the ease with the provision for permits to help eliminate trash and build up for businesses, while Commissioners Danny Evans and Don Patterson voted against the permit out of concern for the rapid spread of wildfires.  Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap's vote in favor of the eased burn with permits was the deciding vote.

The reprise was based on two recent rains, which resulted in an average of about 1.5 inches of rainfall per shower across the county, according to Millsap.

County officials will continue to evaluate conditions daily regarding moisture, wind and temperatures, as well as rankings on the Keetch Byram Drought Index. Officials will also continue to monitor Hopkins County Fire Department and the volunteer fire department's runs related to the weather conditions. If conditions worsen or it appears fire departments are receiving more runs than they can keep up with or have enough manpower to safely extinguish, Millsap said he would reinstate the emergency order prohibiting all forms of outdoor burning, ignition and combustibles, including outdoor cooking, welding and trash burning.

"We are asking the people to continue to be patient. People of Hopkins County, for the most part, have been really good at abiding with the law, and we hope they will continue to be patient with these restrictions in this difficult time," Millsap said.

Information regarding the burn ban, including restrictions and conditions for permits, is also slated to be posted on the county's web site:

www.hopkinscounty.tx.org

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