Friday, December 14, 2012
Unseasonably dry “rainy months” prompt Collin County fire ban
Roman candles are okay, just not shot at your sister.
Dry conditions have led the Collin County Commissioners Court to implement a 90-day burn ban that restricts outdoor burning as well as the usage of some fireworks.
County Fire Marshal Jason Browning said the ban is necessary because of the below-average rainfall the county has received during November and December. All outdoor fires are banned, with the exception of barbecue grills and outdoor heaters such as chimineas.
"Anything outside of those parameters, such as campfires or bonfires, are prohibited right now," Browning said. "October, November and December are typically our rainy months and we have not received the rainfall we usually do."
The ban also prohibits the use of "skyrockets with sticks" as well as "missiles with fins" because of the fire danger they pose, Browning said. All other consumer-grade fireworks, such as Roman candles and Black Cats, are still legal, he said.
The National Weather Service shows that North Texas received 1.02 inches of rain in October, 0.05 inches in November, and only a trace amount in December so far. Traditionally, the area should have received nearly 7 inches during that timeframe.
Browning said the county uses the Keetch-Byram Drought Index from the Texas Forest Service, which measures soil depth to 8 inches. The scale goes from zero (completely saturated) to 800 (completely dry), with 575 being the point where bans are typically enacted. Right now, the average in the county is about 640, Browning said.
"With the number being that high, we are looking at a significant rain event in order to bring the numbers back down," he said. "The problem is that when we get a little bit of rain the short grasses green up, but the larger fire loads -- your cedars and scrub brush -- have a deeper root ball and they are not getting that moisture. Our bigger fuel loads are dry."
Capt. Peggy Harrell of the Plano Fire Department said many residents may only associate wildfires with the summer months, assuming colder temperatures lower the risk. This, she said, is unfortunately not true.
"In the winter the grass and dormant and brown and there are a lot of dead leaves on the ground," she said. "When you add in the dryness, you have a high risk for fires."
The ban will end March 13, unless the Commissioners Court votes to end it early or the Texas Forest Service determines drought conditions no longer exist.
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