The Hays County Commissioners Court on Tuesday reinstated a countywide burn ban, effective immediately. Charcoal and gas grills are exempt from the ban, but burning in “burn barrels” (including barrels with screens on the top) is not allowed.
The Court had lifted the ban January 8 because of heavy rains in the area at that time, cautioning that the ban could be reinstated at any time.
On Monday, the drought index was 497 and expected to increase, with a Red Flag Warning in effect for high winds Tuesday and Wednesday. Hays County Fire Marshal Mark Chambers noted that an index approaching 575 is one of the indicators that a burn ban is necessary, but it is only part of the wildfire equation.
“Even with damp ground, winds and decreased humidity will quickly dry the outside of already dead grasses and other fuels, making them extremely combustible,” Chambers said. “The drought index doesn’t figure in those types of conditions,” he said.
“If you are grilling outdoors, please use extreme caution,” Chambers said. “Make sure you have a water source nearby to douse escaping sparks and never leave your grill unattended. Place the grill away from anything else that could catch fire, including your house, and don’t dispose of coals until you are certain they are cold.”
Drivers should avoid parking vehicles on grassy areas since automobile catalytic converters can start fires along the road. Tossing cigarettes – even ones that appear to be out – can spark a fire.
Residents can help lower the risk of grass fires by making sure vegetation is cut back and periodically watered in compliance with any local watering restrictions.