Rain temporarily douses fire danger disaster declaration

Connie Swinney/The Highlander
Scattered rain showers throughout Burnet County overnight Aug. 9 and 10 relieved some concerns about a rising fire danger, just days after officials extended the terms of a Declaration of Disaster and restrictive burn ban order.






By Connie Swinney
The Highlander

On the heels of the Burnet County Commissioners Court approving a restrictive outdoor burning order, reports of rain overnight Aug. 9 and 10 have eased the fire danger in some areas of Burnet County and more relief could be on the way.

From half-an-inch to as much as an inch-and-a-half was reported by residents monitoring rain guages throughout Burnet County.

A 50 percent chance of rain and possible thunderstorms continues through the weekend, according to LCRA's Meterorlogist Bob Rose. Those chances may diminish by the beginning of next week.

Just days earlier on Aug. 7, commissioners approved restricting outdoor burning including activities such as outdoor cooking and burning cactus for livestock feed as well as welding and grinding projects without safeguards.

The commissioners court took action in a 4-0 vote which essentially “ratified” a Declaration of Disaster and order Prohibiting Outdoor Burning (Sec. 418.108) issued July 30 by Burnet County Judge James Oakley.

Oakley's emergency order was set to expire in seven days and will now remain in effect indefinitely, pending action by the court or the judge.

A string of wildfires throughout the unincorporated area of the county in July and drought conditions — calculated through the Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) — prompted the decision.

Local and state first responders battled at least seven seperate fires primarily on ranchland in Burnet, Llano, Blanco and Lampasas counties.

During a wildfire on July 30, authorities evacuated about 150 residents as the blaze scorched more than 500 acres near CR 116 and Park Road 4, threatening a fish hatchery and state park.

At the time of the commissioner ratified order, officials said lack of rain and a climbing KBDI hastened the decision to continue the more restrictive burn ban order.

We're at 707,” Burnet County Pct. 4 Commissioner Joe Don Dockery said. “That's five points up from yesterday (Aug. 6).”

The KBDI ranges from 0 to 800, with the high number representing the most severe conditions effected by factors including lack of rain, amount of dry fuels and humidity levels.

As of Aug. 9, the KBDI had jumped to 713, officials said.

The rain through the weekend may mitigate some of the fire danger at least temporarily, since rain chances diminish on Monday, Aug. 13 with partly sunny skies returning through mid week.

Connie Swinney can be reached at connie@highlandernews.com.

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