Burn ban reinstated
Dry conditions, overworked firemen cited among reasons for emergency order
Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor

Oct. 4, 2006 - If you haven't gotten around to burning that pile of brush that stacked up over the summer, don't make plans to take care of it within the next week.

You might find yourself having to pay a steep fine and could possibly be liable for any damages should it get out of control.

Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap issued a temporary emergency order Wednesday morning once again restricting all outdoor burning, and that means no brush fires.

Millsap implemented the prohibition on outdoor burning, which means virtually no fires outside will be allowed, except for cooking in an enclosed outdoor grill and burning of household trash in an enclosed barrel with a lid.

Millsap issued the disaster declaration and ban on outdoor warning due to the threat of wildfires, and following several significant fires which have burned across more than 200 acres of property. Fire departments have had to call for mutual aid from other counties to fight the fires, as well as the Texas Forest Service when the fires spread into wooded areas.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Beth Wisenbaker on Monday even called in three of her workers to assist firefighters by plowing a trench around the largest fire to help contain the blaze, which consumed 180 acres. 

Millsap issued the temporary halt to outdoor burning due to the continued dry conditions and hot, windy dry weather in the forecast, as well as overworked fire departments and lack of manpower during the day at volunteer departments.

The burn ban does not restrict normal farm work, such as hay baling and welding, and does allow for "use of gas, charcoal grills or wood smokers" or burn barrels with lids, Millsap said Wednesday morning. Anyone taking advantage of those few allowable types of burning are cautioned to be extremely careful, however, and to make sure they are attended at all times and that a sufficient source of water is readily available.

Also, be sure the location of the cook or trash barrel is away from structures and grass and vegetation, which easily catch fire like a match to kindling from sparks.

The burn ban and threat of wildfires will be evaluated again in the middle of next week by commissioners to determine whether the prohibition on outdoor burning should be extended for up to 90 days.

Anyone caught violating the burn ban can be charged with a Class C misdemeanor offense, which generally results in the cited person having to pay a large fine. If the fire results in damage to other properties, civil penalties or even up to a Class A misdemeanor charge could be assessed the cited person, according to Millsap.

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