No Outdoor Burning — Not Even In Covered Barrel — Allowed At This Time
Hopkins County Commissioners Court Monday morning, at the request of Hopkins County Fire Marshal Andy Endsley, issued a burn ban for Hopkins County. The ban is effective as of today, July 11, 2022, and will remain in effect for 90 days, unless Texas Forest Service or the county judge and fire marshal determine drought conditions no loner exist.
According to Endsley, the index was issued due to the worsening dry conditions in the county, with no potential for significant rainfall in sight in the weather forecast for the foreseeable future. Texas Forest Service recommends establishing a burn ban when drought conditions reach 600 on the Keetch Byram Drought Index.
The KBDI, used to determining forest fire potential, is based on a daily water balance, where a drought factor is balanced with precipitation and soil moisture (assumed to have a maximum storage capacity of 8-inches) and is expressed in hundredths of an inch of soil moisture depletion.
The drought index ranges from 0 to 800, where a drought index of 0 represents no moisture depletion, and an index of 800 represents absolutely dry conditions. Presently, this index is derived from ground based estimates of temperature and precipitation derived from weather stations and interpolated manually by experts at Texas A&M Forest Service (TAMFS) for counties across the state. Researchers at Texas A&M University are working with TAMFS to derive this index from AVHRR satellite data and NEXRAD radar rainfall within a GIS.
The drought index ranges from 0 to 800, where a drought index of 0 represents no moisture depletion, and an index of 800 represents absolutely dry conditions. Presently, the KBDI is derived from ground based estimates of temperature and precipitation derived from weather stations and interpolated manually by experts at Texas A&M Forest Service (TAMFS) for counties across the state. Researchers at Texas A&M University work with TAMFS to derive the KBDI from AVHRR satellite data and NEXRAD radar rainfall within a GIS.
Each 100 represents an inch into the ground without moisture. Hopkins County is averaging in the 600s on the KBDI. As of Monday, July 11, 2022, the county’s overall average was 667, with a minimum rating of 559 in a streak in the lower northeastern part of the county and a maximum of 709 in the central and mid southwestern part of Hopkins County. That’s a 7-point increase, according to the Forest Service KBDI maps and data.
A ranking in the 600-800 range on KBDI is “often associated with more severe drought with increased wildfire occurrence. Intense, deep-burning fires with extreme intensities can be expected. Live
fuels can also be expected to burn actively at these levels,” according tot he KBDI “Real-time drought Assessment System of Texas A&M Forest Service.”
Endsley noted that while some areas in the county did experience scattered rainfall over the weekend, it was not enough to even begin replacing ground moisture nor too reduce fuel levels. He said the area in the last few weeks has reached temperatures high triple digit temperatures, and is predicted to potentially peak at 107-108 with the heat of July and August still to go, temperatures the area has not experienced this early since the 1800s, as far as he’s been able to determine.
Over the past 2 weeks, county firefighters have responded to a number of grass fires, including one that resulted in loss of a structure, farm equipment and other property. That fire is under investigation by the county, aided by the state fire marshal’s office.
The burn ban applies to all unincorporated areas of Hopkins County, and stipulates that “all outdoor burning is prohibited in all areas of the county for 90 days from the date of adoption of the order,” unless the forest service or county judge and fire marshal rules drought conditions no longer exist.
That means no burning, not even in a burn barrel with a cover over it, Endsley noted.
The exceptions to the burning regulation would be would if the burning is related to public health and safety authorized by Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, including firefighter training; public utility, natural gas pipeline or mining practices; planting or harvesting of agricultural crops; or burns that are conducted by a prescribed burn manager certified under Natural Resources Code 153.048 which meets standard of Natural Resources Code 153.047; and commercial welding projects with plan of action on file.
Hopkins County Judge Robert Newsom noted he typically is resistant to enacting a burn ban, especially if there is a chance of appreciable rain in the forecast, but with no rain forecast, it would be prudent to put one in place to protect citizens and property.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Wade Bartley made a motion to enact a burn ban. Place 2 Commissioner Greg Anglin seconded the motion, which received full approval of the court.
Hopkins County joins 195 Texas counties already under a burn ban Monday morning, including nearby Rains, Wood, Hunt and Delta Counties. In fact, only 57 Texas counties did not have a burn ban as of the start of the day Monday, July 11, 2022.
Endsley said county officers will likely start issuing warnings for any violation of the 90-day burn ban, but after an initial warning a citation will be issued. The order states that a violation of the 90-day burn ban is a Class C misdemeanor offense, punishable with a fine of up to $500.