Emergency outdoor burning ban issued by county judge

By BRUCE ALSOBROOK, News-Telegram Managing Editor

Feb. 1, 2008 - Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap Thursday signed an emergency order prohibiting almost all instances of outdoor fires, proclaiming "a state of disaster has been declared on the imminent threat of disaster from wildfire."

The order will remain in effect for seven days for all unincorporated areas of Hopkins County, until midnight on Feb. 7. Hopkins County Commissioners will probably decide whether to issue a more permanent order on outdoor burning before the end of the emergency order, however.

The action prohibits the burning of any combustible material outside of any container or enclosure that will control the flames and sparks. It is also a crime to order someone else to burn something outdoors that is not in such a container.

Millsap's order follows Gov. Rick Perry's disaster proclamation for 152 counties Wednesday, allowing them to be eligible for state assistance. Burn bans are already in place in those counties.

On Tuesday, about two dozen wildfires burned some 19,000 acres across Texas, most in North and West Texas areas, although the largest fire was a 12,000-acre blaze in South Texas that spread from Duval to Brooks County.

The Hopkins County emergency order noted no significant rainfall has been received in the county for an extended period of time, and weather forecasters aren't expecting that to change in the near future.

Such dry conditions pose a threat of large, dangerous and fast-moving wildfires with the potential of endangering lives and causing large amounts of property damage.

Hopkins County Fire Department and the approximately one dozen volunteer fire departments in the county have responded to an unusually large number of wildfires and grass fires in recent weeks. Low humidity and high winds have made conditions even more favorable for wildfires in the area this week.

Anyone caught starting a fire outdoors is subject to a $500 fine, if found guilty of violating the outdoor burning prohibition. The emergency order states that fire department personnel, when notified of an outdoor fire, will first take immediate action to extinguish the flames, then a peace officer will be sent to investigate the nature of the fire.

In the past, county policy has been to initially warn violators that the outdoor burning ban is in effect. The current emergency order states the officer may, at his or her discretion, notify the person about the order and request compliance, and a record of the notification will be kept for future reference.

Second or "flagrant" violations of the burn ban, however, "may be prosecuted in accordance with the statutes and procedures governing misdemeanors."

By BRUCE ALSOBROOK

News-Telegram Managing Editor

Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap Thursday signed an emergency order prohibiting almost all instances of outdoor fires, proclaiming "a state of disaster has been declared on the imminent threat of disaster from wildfire."

The order will remain in effect for seven days for all unincorporated areas of Hopkins County, until midnight on Feb. 7. Hopkins County Commissioners will probably decide whether to issue a more permanent order on outdoor burning before the end of the emergency order, however.

The action prohibits the burning of any combustible material outside of any container or enclosure that will control the flames and sparks. It is also a crime to order someone else to burn something outdoors that is not in such a container.

Millsap's order follows Gov. Rick Perry's disaster proclamation for 152 counties Wednesday, allowing them to be eligible for state assistance. Burn bans are already in place in those counties.

On Tuesday, about two dozen wildfires burned some 19,000 acres across Texas, most in North and West Texas areas, although the largest fire was a 12,000-acre blaze in South Texas that spread from Duval to Brooks County.

The Hopkins County emergency order noted no significant rainfall has been received in the county for an extended period of time, and weather forecasters aren't expecting that to change in the near future. Such dry conditions pose a threat of large, dangerous and fast-moving wildfires with the potential of endangering lives and causing large amounts of property damage.

Hopkins County Fire Department and the volunteer fire departments in the county have responded to an unusually large number of wildfires and grass fires in recent weeks. Low humidity and high winds have made conditions even more favorable for wildfires in the area this week.

Anyone caught starting a fire outdoors is subject to a $500 fine, if found guilty of violating the outdoor burning prohibition. The emergency order states that fire department personnel, when notified of an outdoor fire, will first take immediate action to extinguish the flames, then a peace officer will be sent to investigate the nature of the fire.

In the past, county policy has been to initially warn violators that the outdoor burning ban is in effect. The current emergency order states the officer may, at his or her discretion, notify the person about the order and request compliance, and a record of the notification will be kept for future reference. Second or "flagrant" violations of the burn ban, however, "may be prosecuted in accordance with the statutes and procedures governing misdemeanors."

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