The Herald Banner, Greenville, TX

September 6, 2013

Authorities file charges in burn ban violation

By BRAD KELLAR
Herald-Banner Staff

— Charges were filed Thursday against a Hunt County man who allegedly violated the county’s ban on outdoor burning by igniting a trash fire on his property.

No one was hurt and no structures were destroyed, but Hunt County Fire Marshal Richard Hill said the situation could have been much worse.

“We’re lucky that due to the quick response from the Merit Fire Department and the Texas Forest Service this didn’t turn into a huge fire, which it easily could have been,” Hill said of the blaze which erupted along County Road 1063. Units from the Greenville and Celeste fire departments were called to assist in battling the fire, which Hill said covered 1.7 acres.

“The Forest Service was there because it did get down into the woods,” Hill said. “They got it contained pretty quickly.”

Hill said the individual doing the burning is now facing multiple charges.

“The fire was caused by a violation of the burn ban,” Hill explained. “There were charges filed, a ticket. Additional charges are going to be filed with the county attorney’s office.”

Hill said the individual is also expected to be cited for burning prohibited materials

“The items that were being burned were not legal to burn in the first place,” Hill said, adding the individual was in the process of burning old car seats and scrap car parts at the location.

Hill said personnel from his office have issued multiple citations in recent days, as people continue to claim ignorance of the burn ban, which has been in effect since August 12. But the pace of the illegal burns has slowed, as word has spread through newspaper articles and mentions on social media sites.

“We also had 100 burn ban signs manufactured,” Hill said. The signs are being distributed to prominent locations across the county. “We issued each fire department four signs. You can’t believe how much that has helped.”

Also beneficial  has been the presence of the Texas Forest Service, which has personnel and equipment stationed at the Hunt County Criminal Justice Center in Greenville.

Hill said the agency is available to quickly respond to deal with any major fire situation.

“It is a great help to all of us,” Hill said.

Under the ban no outdoor burning is permitted in the unincorporated areas of the county, including the burning of household garbage. This order does not restrict the outdoor use of welding, cutting torches and other similar tools, provided a separate individual is present to observe for fires and sparks and to have some type of fire extinguisher present. The order does not prohibit outdoor cooking but it does restrict the cooking activities to an enclosed apparatus, designed for cooking purposes.

A total of 144 counties across Texas were listed under burn bans Thursday. Collin, Fannin, Hopkins, Kaufman, Lamar and Rockwall counties were also under bans on outdoor burning Thursday.