San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

FROM STAFF REPORTS

Citing a rapidly increasing drought index rating, the commissioners court on Tuesday reinstated a ban on outdoor burning in unincorporated areas of Hays County.

Parts of the county rate as high as 548 out of 800 on the Keetch-Byram Drought Index, county fire marshal Mark Chambers told the court. Low humidity and dead or dried out vegetation contribute to conditions that make outdoor burning unsafe, Chambers said. Burn bans are typically instate when areas of the county reach the mid-500 range on the drought index.

After 161 consecutive days during which outdoor burning was allowed, the ban imposed this week comes unusually late in the summer relative to recent years. The most recent burn ban was lifted on Feb. 25.

During a burn ban, all outdoor burning is illegal including trash or brush burned in barrels, even when the barrel has a lid. Residents can still use covered barbecue grills but should keep water nearby and make sure charcoal and wood chips are doused before leaving the grill, Chambers said.

Under the Texas Water Code, burn ban violations are punishable by a fine ranging between $1,000 and $50,000 as well as many as 180 days in jail. In addition, someone who “solicits, encourages, directs, aids or attempts to aid the other person to commit the offense” can also be charged with violating the ban.

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