Guadalupe County holds off on ordering burn ban; Commissioners do not move forward with outdoor burn ban
Posted on 2/15/2017 7:17:00 AM.
(Seguin) --  If you have piled up trash that needs to get burned, don't worry about getting it all done today.  Instead of rushing, the Guadalupe County Commissioners Court would like for residents to instead slow down and carefully get the job done. The request by the Guadalupe County Fire Marshal's Office to implement a burn ban for the unincorporated areas of Guadalupe County, failed due to the lack of a second. 
 
County Judge Kyle Kutscher says he just didn't see himself ordering the outdoor burn ban especially after the area received significant rainfall.
 
"We were definitely fortunate to get the rain that we got in Guadalupe County. It was pretty widespread county rainfall so we did not enact the burn ban. We just used the discussion as a good way to inform the public and have that discussion about all the rain that we have in 2016, all of the dead and dry grass that we now have in place, because of the rain that we got, but also the hard freezes that we saw over the winter and the fire danger that's out there in the county. We've seen consistent and sustained winds that create real fire hazards and danger and I just please ask everybody to exercise caution and common sense," said Kutscher.
 
Patrick Pinder, county fire marshal and emergency management coordinator, says high winds and dry grass are not making it easy for volunteer fire fighters.
 
"Since January 1st, the sheriff's department has responded to 47 just regular fire calls -- that they've gone to. In addition to that, they've responded to 39 brush fires or fires that people light a pile or gets out of control. The regular fire could just be some small fire that somebody sees in the back yard. A total of 86 fires -- the sheriff's office has responded to along with myself -- I haven't responded to all 86, but I've responded to several of those calls. Some of the reasons that I'm asking for the county to think about the burn ban -- I understand that the KBDI (Keetch-Byram Drought Index) is low. Currently the KBDI as of yesterday, the minimum was 113, the max was 187, the average is 126. The KBDI does measure the moisture in the ground. However, the moisture in the ground does not effect the grass on top. We've had a lot of rain, all that vegetation has died off," said Pinder.
 
Pinder says like in most cases, there is typically a common denominator in how the fires get started.
 
"A lot of the fires that we're seeing or the large fires that we're seeing are unattended fires. You've got people that start off with a small brush pile or trash that they're burning and they leave it unattended, they don't have a water supply, they're not paying attention to wind speeds -- the wind direction changes and that gets these fires to go out of control. The property owners are not able to get it controlled fast enough with the weather conditions, the dry conditions, the low humidity and the heavy fuel load. By the time the fire department gets there, you're looking at possibly a half acre on fire before we can even respond because m ost of the fire departments in our area are volunteers," said Pinder.
 
Pinder says residents who choose to burn must adhere to the rules and take the situation very seriously.
 
"For outdoor burning, you can burn household trash only inside of a barrel and you can only burn natural vegetation if it's grown on your property and that is the rules. You're not allowed to burn 30 minutes after sunset or 30 minutes before sunset. That's pretty much the outdoor burn rules," said Pinder.
 
Making the motion to prohibit outdoor burning was Commissioner Jim Wolverton. Wolverton says after this week's rains are absorbed, the conditions are just going to continue.
 
"If the winds come up and it dries out then our KBDI is going to rise very very quickly. I have no problem with putting on the burn ban now, because if you wait, then it's too late. We get a couple of days of dry weather, wind blowing, then we're right back where we were yesterday before the rain set," said Wolverton.
 
Although commissioners failed to act on ordering the burn ban, Kutscher says it doesn't mean that the county will take its eyes off things.
 
"If the sun comes out and we have wind and dryer weather conditions and fire danger and that drought index continues to increase, I'm sure we'll be having another burn ban discussion in the near future," said Kutscher.
 
In the meantime, county officials remind residents that people will be held responsible for their actions if not careful. The issue was up for discussion and possible action during Tuesday's regular meeting.


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