Liberty County authorities monitoring dry conditions, say no need for burn ban yet

By Vanesa Brashier,

As drought conditions continue, the Texas A & M Forest Service has positioned a network of teams across the state in the event of a large-scale brush fire, according to Liberty County Fire Marshal Bill Hergemueller.

“Our next chance of rain is next Wednesday or Thursday, and it’s a small chance,” Hergemueller said. “I hate putting on burn bans, so we are hoping it rains.”

State drought conditions are constantly monitored using the Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBGI), a system of testing based on the daily water balance in soil. The index ranges from 0 to 800, with higher numbers representing a greater risk for fire. Currently, Liberty County is at 649 on the index.

“We typically will call for a burn ban when the index reaches the 700 mark. When it gets to about 680-685, then I start bugging the county judge to issue a burn ban,” the fire marshal said.

Since the fire risk increases each rain-free day, Hergemueller is urging caution when burning outdoors.

“If someone is burning brush or wood, stay with it. If they leave it, they are subject to a fine. If the fire gets out of hand, call 911,” he said.

Household garbage can no longer be burned outdoors. Hergemueller said the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and local government codes will not allow it, so the only burning allowed is brush, grass and wood, and fires for cooking.

“I’ve instructed most of the county’s fire chiefs to keep an eye on things in their area and let me know if they notice a rash of grass fires,” he said.

With forests covering roughly 65 percent of Liberty County, the potential for a large-scale fire bears close monitoring during times of drought, he added.

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