Fire marshal discusses burn ban extension

Kaufman firefighters responding to a wreck in Oak Ridge back in August just as the county-wide burn ban was initially instituted. Since then, limited rainfall and high temperatures have caused the county’s drought index to rise even higher.

During last week’s commissioners court meeting, the commissioners voted to extend the already effective county-wide burn ban for an additional 45 days following the recommendation of Fire Marshal Randy Richards.

At the time of last week’s meeting, Richards cited an average drought index for the county at 695 on the Keetch-Byram Index scale, which maxes out at 800. Southern Kaufman County around the Kemp area had drought levels as high as 734 last week. Overall, the county’s drought index has increased by 553 points since July 1. 

“If this trend continues, our entire county will probably be in the 700 to 800 range within the next two weeks,” Richards said.

Although the county did receive some rain early this week with more in the forecast heading into the weekend, Richards is not optimistic that these rains will make a significant difference in the county’s drought. 

As long as the burn ban remains in effect, all outdoor burning, including the burning of household trash in a barrel, is considered in violation of the burn ban, a Class C misdemeanor, and is punishable by a fine of up to $500. Additionally, if a fire started in violation of the burn ban spreads and damages a building, property, or person, a person convicted of starting the fire is charged with a state jail felony offense.

In order to cope with these restrictions, the Kaufman County Fire marshal’s office is encouraging county residents to subscribe to a trash pickup service.

“There are several companies that offer this service throughout the county,” Richards said in a statement released to Kaufman County media. “The trash pickup service is a much safer alternative to burning and is much cheaper than the fines from a citation, or worse yet, the loss of property or injury to a person from an out of control fire.”

During last week’s meeting, the commissioners also approved the commissioners court meeting minutes for Sept. 18, Sept. 23 and Sept. 25, approved an amendment to the original award of contract for Texas Bit to include additional road materials for Road and Bridge, Precinct 1, County Road 213 in the amount of $436,690, approved permission to solicit Kaufman County solid waste and recycling services, approved the filing of nuisance abatement liens for two cases, and approved line item transfers and claims for payment. The commissioners entered into executive session to consider pending litigation or settlement offers regarding the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission permit violation, but made no action upon returning to open session.

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