Grassfires, heat plague county firefighters
Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor

July 3, 2006 - Only the southeast areas of the county reported sprinkles of rain over the weekend it was not enough to stave off hot temperatures and high humidities, which kept county firefighters hopping over the weekend.

In Sulphur Springs, no rainfall was detected, but some areas such as Pickton did receive a bit of precipitation, but not enough to push daily temperatures below 90 degrees.

Temperatures climbed as high as 95 Saturday, three degrees above the average for July 1, and dipped only to 70. On Sunday, temperatures were at the normal average high of 93 for July 2, but only dipped to 73 overnight which is one degree higher than normal.

The continued  heat coupled with low rainfall in earlier months has continued to contribute to dry conditions, which have resulted in a number of grass fires already. The average rain count for the year through the end of July is 30.92 inches, with at least four days of rain during the month for a total of 3.264 inches total precipitation for the month. As of Saturday, we had only received 19.69 inches of rain the whole year in Sulphur Springs.

Saturday and Sunday alone, county fire departments responded to grass fires in at least 14 different location, returning to some at least twice when the fires rekindled due to undetected smoldering deep within the earth. Texas Forest Service was called in to assist on FM 1567 at County Road 1439, where two separate grass fires consumed 10-15 acres of grass and woodlands Sunday, according to fire reports.

Pickton-Pine Forest firefighters were dispatched to five grass fires, Saltillo and North Hopkins two each, Cumby and Brinker to three each, Hopkins County to 10 , Miller Grove one,  and Como and Arbala four each.

That's why the county commissioners voted Monday to continue the prohibition on all aerial fireworks such as "skyrockets with sticks and missiles with fins" in any unincorporated areas, as well as restricted all outdoor burning with the exception of covered barrels for burning crops, trash and brush, and covered cookers, which must be constantly attended, as well as land being cleared for state roadways as approved by Texas Department of Transportation, and "construction projects that included burying debris in a pit with proper safety measures in place to burn safely." The burn ban affects areas outside of Sulphur Springs, Cumby, Tira and Como, the latter of which was considering implementing fireworks and burning restrictions Monday.

According to Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap, that means that construction projects at open businesses can burn in a dug pit to clear debris, if the area is otherwise free of vegetation, leaving only the earth and precautions are put in place to limit potential for sparks to escape and cause grass, brush or property fires.

Burn barrels or cookers must have a "lid and all safety precautions must be taken," to reduce risk of unintended fires. Anyone of these found unattended, will be considered in violation of the burn ban and disaster declaration and subject to its penalties.

With the fireworks, Millsap encourages anyone opting to discharge the allowable items to "use a great deal of common sense" and make sure children are supervised when using fireworks to prevent a costly mistake.

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