The weather and lack of sufficient rain became the topic of some conversation during the opening moments of a Wharton County Commissioners Court meeting on Monday, July 15.

Judge Phillip Spenrath, as he does in every meeting, is provided the head count of the Wharton County Jail and a Keetch Byram Drought Index (KBDI) report, no matter what the value is.

With Emergency Management Coordinator Andy Kirkland and Sheriff Shannon Srubar in attendance, Spenrath said the KBDI value as of Sunday, July 14 was 464.

“If it stays the way it is, a burn ban will become effective next week,” Spenrath said. He said in this case, it wouldn’t be in effect until it was posted in the newspaper(s) of record. It appears the date would be Thursday, Aug. 1.

He said the wettest part of the county is near Danevang (KBDI value 232) and the driest, is in the East Bernard/Hungerford area (KBDI value 563). He said EB is usually the driest.

“The value (is measured) by the county average,” Spenrath said.

The judge too was amazed how a few weeks ago, the county experienced treacherous rains that led to flooding and now nearly a month later residents are faced with a possible burn ban.

“If (residents) have something to burn, I urge you to burn it now, but please call the sheriff’s office so law enforcement knows what you are doing and your neighbors don’t call the fire departments thinking it’s an uncontrolled burn,” Spenrath said.

The burn ban will kick in once Wharton County’s KBDI value is at 500.

Kirkland said the Commissioners Court has his department check the KBDI average value for Wharton County every Monday. If the value is or exceeds 500 a ban on outdoor burning is put in place at dawn the following Thursday. When the county receives rainfall and the index drops below 500 the burn ban is removed immediately.

If you are planning a controlled burn you must call the WCSO at 979-532-1550 to report the time, place, responsible party and a contact number. 

On the day of the commissioners’ meeting Kirkland shared outdoor burning rules from the State of Texas: They are as follows:

§111.219. General Requirements for Allowable Outdoor Burning. 

Outdoor burning which is otherwise authorized shall also be subject to the following requirements when specified in any section of this subchapter. 

(1) Prior to prescribed or controlled burning for forest management purposes, the Texas Forest Service shall be notified. 

(2) Burning must be outside the corporate limits of a city or town except where the incorporated city or town has enacted ordinances which permit burning consistent with the Texas Clean Air Act, Subchapter E, Authority of Local Governments. 

(3) Burning shall be commenced and conducted only when wind direction and other meteorological condi¬tions are such that smoke and other pollutants will not cause adverse effects to any public road, landing strip, navigable water, or off-site structure containing sensitive receptor(s). 

(4) If at any time the burning causes or may tend to cause smoke to blow onto or across a road or highway, it is the responsibility of the person initiating the burn to post flag-persons on affected roads. 

(5) Burning must be conducted downwind of or at least 300 feet (90 meters) from any structure containing sensitive receptors located on adjacent properties unless prior written approval is obtained from the adjacent oc¬cupant with possessory control. 

(6) Burning shall be conducted in compliance with the fol¬lowing meteorological and timing considerations: 

(A) The initiation of burning shall commence no earlier than one hour after sunrise. Burning shall be completed on the same day not later than one hour before sunset, and shall be attended by a responsible party at all times during the active burn phase when the fire is progressing. In cases where residual fires and/or smoldering objects continue to emit smoke after this time, such areas shall be extinguished if the smoke from these areas has the potential to create a nuisance or traffic hazard condition. In no case shall the extent of the burn area be allowed to increase after this time. 

(B) Burning shall not be commenced when surface wind speed is predicted to be less than six miles per hour (mph) (five knots) or greater than 23 mph (20 knots) during the burn period. 

(C) Burning shall not be conducted during periods of actual or predicted persistent low level atmospheric temperature inversions. 

(7) Electrical insulation, treated lumber, plastics, non-wood construction/demolition materials, heavy oils, asphal¬tic materials, potentially explosive materials, chemical wastes, and items containing natural or synthetic rubber must not be burned.

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