During Monday’s meeting, the Bastrop County Commissioners Court approved continuing a burn ban placed into effect a few days prior.
On Friday morning, Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape signed and released an emergency burn ban, effective starting at noon that day.
Consideration of the burn ban was a topic on the agenda for Monday’s regular commissioners court meeting. Bastrop County had received rain over the weekend; however, the effect of the system coming from the Gulf of Mexico on Bastrop County was unknown at that time, Pape said. As a result, on the recommendation of the county’s fire chiefs and emergency management deputy director Christine Files, as well as a review of local drought conditions, Pape issued Friday’s burn ban.
Files said the National Weather Service reported that the county would see high winds and very little rain, and the county was already hot and dry. She recommended lifting the burn ban and putting it again on the next commissioners court agenda. She added that local fire chiefs have no problem with current conditions, but Bastrop County citizens still need to be careful when burning.
“We’re going to go back to dry conditions very quickly,” she said. “We’re going to go back to 100-degree temperatures this weekend.”
The county’s Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI), a numerical scale of drought conditions, sits at 549, Files said, with parts of the county ranging from 619 to 430. A KBDI of 600 is the threshold for a burn ban in Bastrop County; a KBDI measurement between 600 and 800 is associated with extreme drought and increased wildfire occurrence, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Clara Beckett suggested keeping the burn ban in place, since the KBDI will be higher by the end of the week with no rain anticipated.
The court voted to extend the burn ban until August 24.
Pape said that any re sponse to a large fire would be short-staffed because of COVID-19, as some firefighters and their families have had the virus.
“This is not just a hot summer, it’s a hot summer in a pandemic,” Files said.
A person violates the burn ban order if they ignite or cause the ignition of any combustible or vegetative material outside of an enclosure that serves to contain all flames and sparks. A violation of the order is a class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $500.