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Some residents violate Victoria County burn ban

By Brian Cuaron
July 25, 2011 at 2:25 a.m.


BURN BARREL TIPS

Use a 55-gallon drum with a screen on top. The screen must cover the entire top of the barrel and have holes no bigger than 5/8 of an inch.

Sit the drum on mineral soil.

Clear a 10-foot circumference around the barrel, including grass.

Keep the fire away from buildings and other people's property.

Have a nearby means to extinguish the fire.

Watch the fire until it is put out.

Littering isn't just a crime. It can also be hazardous.

"This stuff is like a tinderbox," said Fire Marshal Ron Pray, describing the county's dry conditions.

The Victoria County Commissioners Court renewed its 90-day burn ban on Monday. However, not all residents have abided by the law's regulations.

Pray said that about 30 citations have been issued to burn-ban violators since it was enacted in April.

He explained that some weren't outside, watching their lit barrels. Other times the barrels have had holes or were sitting on top of grass instead of mineral soil.

Such violations do more than just cost a person a $500 fine and $100 court fee - they cause property damage and endanger lives. Pray said that last week about seven fires were related to violations or other issues related to the burn ban.

"We're not giving warnings anymore. This is serious," Pray said.

"If people don't realize we're in a burn ban at this point, then something is wrong."

The Keetch-Byram Drought Index for the county was listed at 726 on Monday, according to Pray. When the index reaches 800, conditions are completely dry. Pray said the index would typically have to drop below 500 before a burn ban was rescinded.

The county's dry conditions, described by Judge Don Pozzi as extremely dangerous, have made even littering a serious crime.

Pray said grass fires have started after someone threw a cigarette onto a highway. Parking in an area of high grass was also said to be a potential fire hazard because of a hot catalytic converter.

Chains dragging on the road are also hazardous. And barbecue trailers that don't have the lids secured may result in fires.

Residents who start fires, even without violating the burn ban, are responsible for damage to their neighbors' property, Pray said.

He said he wasn't looking at recommending a complete burn ban. But such a ban was possible.

"If we're having a lot of fires, then yeah it's going to happen," Pray said.

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