by Sherri White
Jasper County Judge Mark Allen issued a declaration of disaster along with an order restricting outdoor burning early Monday. The declaration came after Jasper County and the Southeast Texas area was hit with record high temperatures and little rain in the last few weeks.
The declaration of disaster states, “The County of Jasper is in imminent threat of widespread or severe damage, injury, or loss of life or property resulting from countywide drought conditions. Such conditions have created a public safety hazard that would be exacerbated by outdoor burning.”
Judge Allen is proclaiming the local state of disaster pursuant to Section 418(a) of the Texas Government Code. The declaration includes a restriction authorized by Section 352.081 of the Texas Local Government Code, restricting the outdoor burning during drought conditions. This means that all outdoor burning or outdoor burning of trash, brush, trees, storm debris, construction material debris or open campfires is prohibited until expiration of this order. The ban does not prohibit outdoor burning activities related to public health and safety that are authorized by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
Anyone caught violating this order can be arrested and charged with a Class C misdemeanor with a fine up to $500.
The decision to issue the burn ban came after fires popped up in nearby Hardin County as well as Buna and Harrisburg.
Because the Fourth of July holiday is this weekend, there has been some concern about the drought and the use of fireworks.
Judge Allen said the county is not banning the use of fireworks but, “We are urging people to use extreme caution when it comes to fireworks.”
Allen added people should use common sense when it comes to shooting fireworks. “Don’t use any projectile fireworks that could land in a hay field or in the woods,” said Allen.
The state of disaster and the ban on outdoor burning is good for seven days. During that time Judge Allen said he is hoping the county will get some relief in the form of rainfall. A 30 percent chance of rain was predicted for this week.
“We’ll need several inches of rain to remedy this situation,” said Allen.
If the seven days is up and the rain has still not come the Jasper County Commissioners’ Court will reassess the situation and possibly extend the ban