Walker County drought conditions, commissioners declare winter burn ban
Published: Thursday, November 29, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 29, 2012 01:11
The skies could be absent of fireworks this holiday season after the Walker County Commissioner’s Court declared a burn ban for county in its meeting on Monday.
According to the Texas Association of Counties (TAC), outdoor burning and other activities that could ignite a fire are prohibited while a burn ban is in effect. The ban lasts for 90 days, but can be extended if the Commissioner’s Court determines need, or shortened if the county judge deems it no longer necessary.
Students at Sam Houston State University who live in Walker County were for the most part, unconcerned about the ban. Several said they lived in apartments and were not allowed to burn anyway.
Cullen Heard, a sophomore Biophysical Therapy major, said that he would not be under the ban’s influence as an apartment dweller, but have held friends who owned houses where they could have fires that would be affected by the restriction.
Other students were disappointed that they would not be able to hang out with friends again around the bonfires they had been holding on the cold nights over the past few weeks.
The Texas Forest Service determines the need for a burn ban based on three components: the Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI), the amount of rainfall and the current fuel moisture (water found in vegetation).
According to Sherri Pegoda, Assistant to the County Judge, the Texas Interagency Coordination Center uses the KBDI to determine fire potential in time of drought. They do this by measuring the amount of precipitation needed for the ground to reach its full moisture capacity.
The measurements range from 0 to 800 units and “represents a moisture regime from 0 to 8 inches of water through the soil layer”. As of Wednesday, the KDBI measurement was 537 with a high of 647 and a low of 354.
Additionally, Walker County should have seen about 44 inches of rainfall by this time but has only seen 38 inches. The fuel moisture for the county normally 147 for this time of year, but is currently 137.
This is not the first time Walker County has been under a burn ban. In June, the commissioners approved to establish a burn ban if necessary after drought conditions reached between 600 and 700 on the KDBI, although a ban was not implemented. In the summer of 2011, the county was at a 722 on the KBDI and was about 15 inches behind in rainfall, causing severe drought conditions that lead to forest fires along Interstate 45 near Huntsville.
The Commissioner’s Court will meet Dec. 10 to decide if New Year’s Eve fireworks will be placed under the ban as well.