Burn ban lifted, reinstated for second time

Controlled burns like this sparked up all over Comal County as soon as the burn ban was lifted last Tuesday. Lack of predicted rain and a number of out of control fires forced county officials to reimpose the burn ban for the third time this year. Photo by Kevin Force.

by Kevin Force, Editor

For the second time this year, Comal County officials lifted an imposed burn ban only to reinstate it shortly after.

Amid forecasts calling for heavy rains throughout the Hill Country last week, County Judge Danny Scheel decided to lift the ban to allow residents time to perform controlled burns and get rid of brush and debris.

Almost instantly, the requests for controlled burns rolled in, and they were visible all over the county for several days. On Sunday, the Comal County Sheriff's Office received 337 requests for controlled burns, eight of which resulted in calls to dispatch emergency crews.

County Fire Marshal Lin Manford asked county commissioners to conduct a special session of Commissioners Court and requested that the burn ban be reinstated.

"We had about 3/4 of an inch of rain across the county and a prediction of another four to six inches which never came." Scheel said.

"Consequently, in three days over the weekend, we had more than 20 wildfires. People burned and their fires got out of control."

The ban, the third of this year, became effective at 6 a.m. on Tuesday.

The year began under a burn ban when drought conditions forced commissioners to declare the ban prior to New Year's Eve and what would have been certain celebrations with fireworks.

The ban lasted until March 2, when Scheel lifted it after light rain fell throughout the area.

That weekend, however, also caused a number of wildfires as a result of controlled burns, and five days later, Scheel reimposed the ban that was lifted last week.

This time, Comal County made it seven days before the ban was reinstated. It is effective for 90 days, or until Scheel again decides to lift it.

"We understand people have a necessity to burn and we certainly want to give them that opportunity, but in the same respect we want to protect other people's property. Hopefully we will have some precip in the near future and let people burn to their hearts content."

Scheel said that he will be watchful of area conditions before lifting the ban.

"We're monitoring the weather situation very closely through the Texas Forest Service as well as the county Fire Marshal," Scheel said. "When we receive enough rain to either decrease the possibility of wildfires or until the green grass comes up enough to help us out, we'll take the precautions as requested by the fire departments.

"There's just not enough green vegetation to prevent those fires from quickly spreading. Hopefully that changes quickly," he added.

Total, the county has had only 12 days this calendar year in which to burn.

The ban applies to any outdoor burning or use of combustible materials in a non-enclosed area. Campfires must not be larger than 3 feet in diameter.

Violations of the ban are a misdemeanor and subject to a fine not to exceed $500.

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