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Burn Ban on the Horizon?

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With the warm temperatures and lack of moisture this summer, potential grassfires are just one reason why a burn ban may be in affect by next week.

"We're real concerned about that and think we need to help people along," said Kenny Mallard, one of the commissioners for Brazos County. "Most people understand that and think about it, but it always helps to have an ordinance in place when we ask people not to do it at all."

On Tuesday, the group may be faced with an almost yearly decision. Emergency Management Coordinator DeMerle Giordano says she will present the most recent drought index numbers, and you probably don't need help figuring out what they say. In short, there hasn't been much rain lately.

The Texas Forest Service uses the Keetch-Byram Drought Index in calculating expected fire behavior based on temperature, humidity and soil moisture. The scale in the KBDI goes from 0 to 800, and when the numbers creep towards 500, heads begin to turn. On the most recent maps, portions of Brazos, Robertson, Burleson, Washington, Grimes, and pretty much all of Walker and Montgomery counties -- show numbers above that magic 500 point mark.

But don't confuse a burn ban with a fireworks ban. "They are two different things," said Mallard. "With the fireworks ban, we look at usually before the 4th of July holiday when fireworks are sold, and if the drought is looking like it's going to be up -- and this year, it is -- we instituted a fireworks ban."

Bottle rockets and missiles with fins cannot be bought or used according to the commissioners' ruling, but other fireworks can be used.

But the fire that get out of control tend to be yard debris or garbage burns gone bad. The forest services says you should contact your local fire department if you're burning, always stay with the fire, keep water handy at all times, and of course, check local ordinances to make sure the burn is legal, and not banned, like in 26 Texas counties so far this year.

"The burn ban is on until taken off. The Commissioners' Court will vote to remove it, so it'll stay on until the rains come again or until the weather changes," said Mallard.

And in the coming days, the 27th county with a ban might be yours.