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Wildfire threat forces burn ban

By BOBBY HORN JR.
LIBERTY/ CHAMBERS COUNTY—On Feb. 23, a wildfire broke out in the Tarkington plains, off FM 321 near the Ryan Cemetery.
Before the day was through crews from HWY321, Dayton, Kenefick, Cleveland, Cypress Lakes, Hardin, Hull-Daisetta, North Liberty, Plum Grove, Liberty, and Huffman fire departments, as well as the Texas Forest Service battled the blaze that covered some 300 acres.
The fire was believed to have started as a brush pile fire that got out of control.
The following morning another wildfire broke out, this time no the north side of the county on FM787 at the Trinity River.
Seeing the danger that fires posed, County Judge Craig McNair issued a burn ban.
According to the commissioners court order, “the Commissioners Court finds that circumstances present in all or part of the unincorporated area of the county created a public safety hazard that would be exacerbated by outdoor burning.”
Under the order, “all outdoor burning is prohibited for 90 days from the date of this Order (Feb. 24), unless the restrictions are terminated earlier based on a determination made by the Texas Forest Service or this Court.”
Violation of the burn ban is a Class C Misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine up to $500.
The Texas Forest Service issues daily “Texas Fire Danger Maps” to alert county emergency management of the situation. On Feb. 27, Liberty County was listed as being in “Moderate” danger. The next day the danger level as upgraded to “high.”
Chambers County adds ban
On Feb. 28 Ryan Holzaepfel, director of emergency management for Chambers County, said that they did not have a burn ban but that they were monitoring the situation closely.
The next day he put out an alert that the burn ban was in effect.
Holzaepfel said that normally they look at a drought index to determine the need for a burn ban. This is not the case in this instance.
He said that while the drought index is not particularly high there have been high winds, and areas of dead, dry grass. These conditions, he said, are ripe for wildfires and that all that is needed is a spark.
The Texas Forest Service, in their 10-day forecast, does not show any major change that would effect the burn bans.