County 'ratifies' emergency order

Scorched brush remains in the aftermath of a string of wildfires in July and August in Burnet County, including an area pictured here off Hoover's Valley Road.




UPDATE: As of Aug. 14, Burnet County Commissioners rescinded the disaster declaration but approved keeping a less restrictive burn ban in place.

By Connie Swinney
The Highlander

Due to the worsening fire danger, Burnet County Commissioners Aug. 7 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 blazed scorched more than 500 acres near CR 116 and Park Road 4, threatening a fish hatchery and state park.

Officials say 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.

Nobody is upset about this,” Oakley said of the extended disaster order. “They agree we should have to do this to mitigate (the wildfire danger).”

However, officials are allowing exceptions to existing projects which demonstrate safeguarded protocols.

We have reviewed sites with commercial welding,” said Burnet County Development Services Director Herb Darling. “If they're on a slab with a water source (nearby), we're allowing it.

Fence builders? We're nixing that pretty quick,” Darling added.

Following the meeting, Oakley added, “It's on a case-by-case basis, depending on the conditions of the projects.”

Connie Swinney can be reached at

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