The Walker County Commissioners Court voted Monday to reinstate the burn ban, effective immediately.
County emergency management coordinator Butch Davis told the court that after discussing the area’s dry conditions with Huntsville Fire Chief Tom Grisham, he recommended that a burn ban be implemented. Despite scattered rain around the area over the past week, the county’s Keetch-Byram Drought Index rating average was close to 600. The KBDI is used to determine forest fire potential on a scale of 0 to 800 with 800 representing absolute dry conditions.
“Our KBDI average is 605 and Chief Grisham recommended we implement the burn ban if the court sees fit due to the fact that they have been chasing quite a few grass fires recently even in the southern part of the county, which got some rain over the weekend,” Davis said. “Saturday I was going to Conroe and there on (Highway) 75 New Waverly Fire Department was responding to a fire with ESD 1 out of Montgomery County.
“We are beginning to have (fires) because it is pretty dry.”
The burn ban states that all outdoor burning is prohibited in Walker County for 90 days unless the ban is lifted before that by the court. The order does not prohibit outdoor burning related to public health and safety authorized by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for firefighting training; public utility, natural gas pipeline or mining operations; planting or harvesting of agricultural crops; or controlled burns.
The Sam Houston National Forest is also exempt from the burn ban.
Davis also pointed out to the court Monday that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration updated its major storm predictions for the hurricane season, which runs through Nov. 30. NOAA predicts there will be 12 to 17 named storms (those with top winds of 39 mph or higher), which includes five to eight hurricanes (top winds of 74 mph or higher). Two or three of those hurricanes could be major (Category 3, 4 or 5 with winds of at least 111 mph).
The initial numbers in May indicated there would be nine to 15 named storms and four to eight hurricanes with one to three being major.