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October 8, 2013

Commissioners consider burn ban status

GREENVILLE — The  Hunt County Commissioners Court is expected to decide this morning whether the county remains under a ban on outdoor burning.

Recent rains have helped reduce the overall danger of grass fires, although the county is still listed under moderate drought conditions.

The commissioners are scheduled to consider whether to lift the ban during today’s regular session, starting at 10 a.m. in the Auxiliary Courtroom, 2700 Johnson Street in Greenville.

As of late September, more than 150 counties across Texas — including almost all of Northeast Texas — were listed under bans on outdoor burning. As of Monday afternoon, that number had been reduced to 53, with Hunt, Collin and Rockwall counties still listed under burn bans.

After Hunt County Judge John Horn issued an emergency order August 12, instituting a burn ban in the county as a result of severe drought conditions and an increased danger of grass fires, the Hunt County Commissioners Court voted to renew the ban for 90 days on August 20 and only the commissioners can vote to remove the ban.

Much of Hunt County was still listed under a moderate drought as of Monday.

A reading of 800 under the Keetch-Byram Drought Index is the highest on the scale, meaning that it would take eight or more inches of rainfall to bring the soil to saturation. Hunt County’s readings under the index as of Monday ranged from 402 to 580 with an average across the county of 511.

Hunt County Fire Marshal Richard Hill has said guidelines call for instituting or maintaining a burn ban whenever a county’s average readings under the index reach 475 or higher.

Under the ban no outdoor burning is permitted in the unincorporated areas of the county, including the burning of household garbage.

The 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.

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