Without a break in the excessively hot temperatures and dry conditions, Harris County Commissioners Court voted to place the unincorporated parts of the county under a burn ban effective immediately on Tuesday afternoon.
This prohibits burning except in an enclosure that contains all sparks and flames to prevent controlled fires from expanding. Outdoor burning activities allowed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality include approved ceremonial fires; non-commercial cooking such as backyard cookouts and barbecues; and welding and other “hot work” performed per county fire code requirements.
Brandi Dumas, communications manager at the Harris County Fire Marshal's Office, said residents should be careful while grilling, mowing the lawn or smoking cigarettes and prepare for a fire by ensuring nothing combustible is near their houses.
“We also want our families to take heed of the warning and start cleaning around their house, moving brush away, anything that could easily catch on fire, like fuel,” she said. “You want to start moving that stuff away from your home, we don’t want anything to happen, but we also want to protect your home just if something happens.”
Dumas also suggested that residents have an escape plan from their homes, with two ways out and a central meeting place for family members outside if a fire breaks out.
She encourages people to spread information about the ban as some neighbors may not be aware, “If you see someone burning trash because that’s what they usually do, you should let them know about it,” she said.
The Fire Marshal’s Office also has an anonymous tip report
webpage, where residents can submit information about burning activity they see, which assists the office in enforcing the ban, she said.
The Texas Forest Service measures the chance of a forest fire using the Keetch-Bryam Drought Index (KBDI) scale, based on daily water balance, where the drought factor is weighed with precipitation and soil moisture.
The index ranges from 0-800, and KBDI conditions between 600 and 800 have the potential to lead to increased, prolonged wildfires. As of Tuesday, Harris County’s average KBDI was 681, according to the Texas Forest Service.
Currently, 68 percent of Texas counties – including most counties near Harris County – are under a burn ban. The ban on the unincorporated parts of the county will likely last for 90 days or until the Texas Forest Service determines drought conditions no longer exist.