Burn ban off, but county officials still need help

Those conducting controlled burns asked to call sheriff's dispatchers in advance

From Staff Reports

March 11, 2008 - County officials lifted the ban on outdoor fires Monday but are urging those people who conduct controlled outdoor burns to let authorities know in advance so there won't be mistaken reports of grass fires by neighboring residents or passing motorists..

"We do ask that those who do burn call in and get a call number," Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap said Monday.

Those conducting controlled burns should call Hopkins County Sheriff's Office dispatchersat 903-438-4040. Sheriff's dispatchers field fire calls and assign call numbers for county incidents.

Calling dispatchers in advances helps authorities by letting them know that the burns are being monitored, as well as who to contact should they get reports from motorists or neighbors of an out-of-control or unattended fire on the property.

If county officials don't have a number to contact the property owner and are not aware of the burn, firefighters will be dispatched to the location.That could unnecessarily tie up firefighters and other emergency personnel and prevent their response during critical situations should an emergency occur elsewhere.

Millsap said that while Hopkins County is currently in the low fire risk and drought categories, county residents are urged to take every precaution when burning outdoors. Warmer temperatures and remaining dead vegetation could result in quicker spread of fires.

County officials will continue to monitor the number of fire calls answered by Hopkins County Fire Department and the county's volunteer firefighters. They will also be keeping a close watch on the weather conditions and Texas Forest Service drought ratings for Hopkins County.

Should conditions decline, Millsap can, at his discretion, issue an emergency burn ban.

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