By JESSIE HORTON
TheFlashToday.com NEWS & SPORTS – FREE & LOCAL
ERATH COUNTY (August 13, 2015) — It’s been hot, everyone knows that. But it’s not only that, the area is back in danger and Erath County officials aim to do something about it.
While at Monday’s meeting, the Erath County Commissioners did not approved a countywide burn ban, they did ask media to convey the dangerous nature of the hot, dry weather. According to Erath County Volunteer Fire Rescue Chief Chris Brooks, the dry weather and hot winds contribute to dangerous fire conditions. He pointed to the example of the 48-hour period at the end of last week as an example.
“Just look at the past few days,” he told commissioners. “We’ve been busy. But I’ve checked the KBDI and we’re averaging about 450-500.”
Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) is an index used to determining forest fire potential by the forest service. The drought index is based on a daily water balance, where a drought factor is balanced with precipitation and soil moisture (assumed to have a maximum storage capacity of 8-inches) and is expressed in hundredths of an inch of soil moisture depletion.
The drought index ranges from 0 to 800, where a drought index of 0 represents no moisture depletion, and an index of 800 represents absolutely dry conditions. Presently, this index is derived from ground based estimates of temperature and precipitation derived from weather stations and interpolated manually by experts at the Texas Forest Service (TFS) for counties across the state. Researchers at Texas A&M University are working with the TFS to derive this index from AVHRR satellite data and NEXRAD radar rainfall within a GIS.
So, while Erath County isn’t yet at high fire risk, Brooks and the county commissioners do ask that residents follow all burning requirements, use extreme caution when burning, notify local authorities when you’re burning so they do not waste resources coming to a control burn and always keep enough water nearby to put out the entire fire.
At commissioners’ court, Brooks told commissioners that conditions were “not real bad yet, but they’re getting there. They’re worsening,” he said, “and they’re worsening fast.”
Since Monday, Erath County has continued to face dry weather and hot winds, compounding the problem and Erath County volunteer firefighters from all the departments have been dispatched to fight grass and brush fires including one on property owned by Rough Creek Lodge. According to the KBDI, Erath County has averaged 531 over the last 14 days, with a high of 652 and a low of 394.
So, for the time being, there is still no burn ban in Erath County. However, all residents need to consider weather conditions, wind speed and surrounding factors when burning. Be sure to follow all burning requirements, use extreme caution when burning, notify local authorities when you’re burning so they do not waste resources coming to a control burn and always keep enough water nearby to put out the entire fire.