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

With high winds and low humidity in the forecast, the Hays County Commissioners Court this week reinstated a ban on outdoor burning in unincorporated areas of the county. Officials in Travis and Caldwell counties also imposed burn bans this week.

As of Wednesday, Hays County measured between 96 and 173 on the Keetch-Byram drought index, a system used by state and local emergency management officials to estimate wildfire risk based on precipitation, soil moisture, temperature and other data.

Drought conditions are expected to rise as high as 237 in portions of the county during the next two weeks, still well below the mid-500 range that usually triggers consideration of a burn ban, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.

Hays County assistant fire marshal Clint C. Browning told the commissioners court on Tuesday that “low humidity, lack of rain and dry winter grasses and brush combined with frequent high or gusty winds makes outdoor burning a concern.” The county’s fire department chiefs support Browning’s recommendation to reinstate the burn ban.

The burn ban does not apply to charcoal, wood or gas grills with lids, but does apply to trash burn barrels even if they are covered with a screen.

A first-time county burn ban violation is a class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $500 with escalating penalties for subsequent convictions, according to the state’s administrative code. An outdoor burning violation prosecuted under the Texas Clean Air Act carries a possible fine of $1,000 to $50,000 and up to 180 days in jail.

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