Conditions spark area grass fires

Connie Swinney/Burnet Bulletin
Fire officials are zeroing in on the possible cause of a fire that destroyed a log cabin-styled home on Aug. 7 in the 200 block of Kingsland Ranch Cove on Lake LBJ. The structure was unoccupied. Suspicions included combustible industrial chemicals on cleaning rags as well as embers from a barbecue grill.

 

 

 

 

By Lew K. Cohn

Managing Editor

Burnet Bulletin

Two weekend grass fires in Burnet County, including one near Bertram which required Texas Forest Service assistance, have local fire departments reminding residents there is a burn ban in place for a very good reason.

High temperatures hoving above or near the century mark plus dry conditions with little to no rain expected in the forecast are turning vegetation into tinder that threatens to burn without warning.

On Saturday, an out of control burn in the 9500 block of North Ranch-to-Market Road 1174 created a wall of fire which burned up 78 acres shortly after 1:30 p.m. and threatened several structures. Texas Forest Service units from Fredericksburg responded to the scene and StarFlight was put on standby to provide air support if needed. Fences had to be cut as the fire jumped the roadway at RM 963.

Classified by the Forest Service as the “Hose” fire, the fire was reportedly 95 percent contained as of 2 p.m. Monday. Firefighters from Marble Falls (MFFR and MFAVFD), Bertram, Burnet (BFD and BVFD), Oakalla, Lampasas, Kempner, Horseshoe Bay and Spicewood responded or provided support.

Then, Spicewood VFD-EMS and other departments battled a large grass fire Sunday afternoon in the 4200 block of County Road 404 near Rockvale Cemetery that was moving to the northeast before it was contained at 6:17 p.m. Sunday. The fire flared up again Monday, requiring two brush trucks to mop up hotspots.

On Thursday, Aug. 8, Burnet County commissioners had adopted an extended ban against outdoor burning during a special called meeting.

County Judge James Oakley had signed an emergency order to ban outdoor burning on Wednesday, July 31, under Section 418 of the Local Government Code, which allows the county judge to declare a local state of emergency for a period of seven days, which includes a prohibition against outdoor burning. That declaration was set to expire Aug. 8.

The court voted to adopt a new order under Section 352.081 of the Local Government Code, which allows a commissioners court to adopt a 90-day ban on outdoor burning if it “makes a finding that circumstances present in all or part of the unincorporated area create a public safety hazard that would be exacerbated by outdoor burning.”

Burnet County currently has an average Keetch-Byram Drought Index number of 561, while Llano County has an average KDBI of 581. A KDBI of 575 is the threshhold at which conditions are considered to be too dangerous and susceptible to wildfire to allow outdoor burning.

The KBDI is used to determine forest and grassland fire potential. The drought index is based on daily water balance, where a drought factor is balanced with precipitation and soil moisture (assumed to have a maximum storage capacity of eight 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. A KDBI of 518 means the area has average soil moisture depletion of 5.18 inches.

A burn ban also remains in place for Llano County as commissioners ratified and extended prohibitions against outdoor burning. Citizens in both counties are prohibited from burning trash or other items outdoors in unincorporated areas. A person who knowingly or intentionally violates the burn ban can be charged with a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine up to $500.

Residents are also asked to think about donating cases of water to local fire departments since keeping firefighters hydrated is a challenge. A fire advisory remains in effect for the next week. All citizens are encouraged to keep water on hand and take extra precautions as hot, dry weather is expected for some time.

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