Persistent dry conditions across the Texoma region have Grayson County officials keeping close tabs on the need for a possible burn ban and the concern is only growing as the National Weather Service predicts little to no rain in the weeks ahead.
“It’s something we’re really worried about this year because we had so much rain through the summer,” Grayson County Emergency Management Coordinator Sara Somers said. “There’s so much vegetation, so we’ve got some pretty bad levels of fuel across the county. It’s a concern for everyone.”
According to the most recent report form the Texas Water Development Board, the entire Texoma region below the Red River is currently experiencing a moderate drought or at the very least “abnormally dry” conditions. Despite the designations, Grayson County is not presently under a burn ban.
The authority to issue a burn ban rests with the Grayson County commissioners, but commissioners don’t consider the declaration until the county’s Keetch-Byram Drought Index reaches a score of 650. The index ranges from 0 to 800, is derived from ground-based estimates of temperature and precipitation and reflects the flammability of organic material in the ground. Grayson County’s average KBDI score was listed at 519 as of Monday evening.
But with Grayson County encompassing more than 900 square miles, Somers said different parts of the county often experience different conditions at the same time and that can complicate the decision to issue a burn ban.
“That means that at some point there will be a part of our county that is dryer and in more danger than others,” Somers said. “And one of the things that the (commissioners) court has consistently decided over the years that I’ve been here is that it would be an enforcement nightmare to have a partial burn ban.”
Somers explained that dry conditions are common in Texoma during early December and activities such as motorists pulling off the road into tall, dead grass, low-hanging and sparking trailer chains and welding work are some of the most common causes of Grayson County’s brush fires.
Grayson County Fire Marshal Andy Brazie said those who defy a burn ban can face a range of consequences.
“They could face criminal citations, end up visiting a courtroom and face fines,” Brazie said. “With any illegal burn, they can be held accountable for any damages resulting from that.”
Somers said although the county isn’t currently under a burn ban, members of the public should exercise caution and adhere to the state’s standing outdoor burning laws which restrict a host specific and illegal burning activities.
“We just hope people are careful and realize that dangerous conditions for burning can exist even when a burn ban isn’t in effect,” Somers said.