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Advocate editorial board opinion: Do not burn illegally during drought

By By the Advocate Editorial Board
Dec. 27, 2011 at 6:27 a.m.


BURN LEGALLY

Residents may burn household trash, but it must be contained in a barrel covered by a screen with holes no larger than five-eighths of an inch. And the area around the barrel should be cleared out.

All of us were happy to see the recent rain. The needed moisture certainly wetted the ground, but we must not jump to the conclusion it was enough to end the ongoing drought. We need a full-fledged gully washer followed by some consistent temperatures and moisture to end the drought.

But some county residents figured the recent rain ended the county burn ban. Not so. The burn ban remains in effect, and those who venture to burn may end up paying the $600 fine for illegal burning.

"We are in a serious situation. We don't want to end up with another Bastrop or somebody losing a home," said David Phillips, the assistant chief in the Victoria County Fire Marshal's Office.

Drought conditions are measured by the Keetch-Byram Drought Index, maintained by the Texas Forest Service. The index ranges from 0 to 800, where 0 represents no moisture depletion and 800 represents absolute dry conditions.

Phillips said before the recent rain, the index readings were in the 650 range and after the rain, the index dropped to 612 as of Monday. Already on Tuesday, it had risen to 616.

The burn ban could be lifted if the index drops below 600.

"We are in one of the worst droughts in a long, long time," Phillips said.

He explained that the grass is dead and/or dormant from the winter.

"The rain is not going to bring the grass back up," he said.

"We will need warm days, rain - several inches over several days or months - high humidity," Phillips said.

We think we'd better get used to the burn ban for a while. Spring might be the earliest time for it to be lifted if weather cooperates.

We think you should always check to see if the burn ban is lifted or not. You can do that easily by phoning the fire marshal's office at 579-9103.

Otherwise, if you burn illegally, you will be fined.

Phillips said he thinks about five or more residents were cited for illegal burning after the recent rain. He wasn't sure of the total number of citations because the Victoria County Sheriff's Office also is issuing citations for the offense. That means a $600 fine was levied for each offense.

We urge all to adhere to the burn ban. Your pocketbook, property and lives are threatened if you burn illegally.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.

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