Hardin County established a burn ban which started at 8 a.m. Tuesday and will run for the next 90 days.
Hardin County joined three other Southeast Texas counties — Jasper, Newton and Tyler — in banning outdoor burning.
The ban includes the burning of trash, brush, trees, storm debris, construction material and open campfires.
A violation of the ban is a Class C misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $500.
Sunny skies, cool mornings and low relative humidity make enjoyable conditions for outdoor activities, and many residents will undoubtedly take advantage of the beautiful fall weather to enjoy the outdoors. State wildfire control leaders caution, though, that dry conditions already prevail across most of East and Southeast Texas, and the extended outlook for continued dry weather through next week means that wildfire danger is likely to persist and even increase in the coming days.
A recent report issued by the Texas Forest Service noted that forecast weekend weather conditions could bring a significant increase in the number of accidental ignitions. Moderate fire danger is forecast for much of the East Texas region, but areas in northeast and southeast Texas will be at higher risk.
Persistent dry conditions in the timber fuels in parts of Marion, Harrison, Cass, Gregg, Rusk, Panola and Upshur Counties in northeast Texas and Jasper, Newton Counties in southeast Texas provide the potential for daily initial attack activity, according to the Texas Forest Service report. A recent 85-acre fire in Marion County gives evidence of the dry conditions.
“When we see dry fuels and RH below 25% in the timber fuels – as are expected this weekend, we see a significant increase in the number of accidental ignitions,” said Brad Smith, TFS fire behavior analyst. “The fires should not be difficult to control with the low wind speed but fire departments should expect an increase in suppression requests through the weekend.”
A website graphic showing the Keetch-Byram Drought Index indicates that some northeast Texas counties have drought index level in the 700-800 range, the highest drought category. KBDI values for most other East Texas counties fall in the 600-700 range.
National forests in East Texas are also drying out, according to Gay Ippolito, public affairs officer for the National Forests and Grasslands in Texas.
‘We’ve also noticed the drying trend in the national forests, and we’re very concerned about the forecast showing no rain through next week,” said Ippolito. “Our fire suppression crews note that recent wildfires in the national forests have burned moderately. Given the dry conditions, higher winds would greatly increase the difficulty of control.
Ippolito noted that the Sabine National Forest had experienced three fires within the last week, a 260-acre blaze identified as human-caused and two smaller fires – 3 and 14 acres – attributed to a downed power line.
The week of October 3-9 is National Fire Prevention Week. Given the dry conditions that exist across most of east Texas, this year’s fire safety observance is especially timely.
The majority of East Texas fires are caused by unsafe burning of household trash, brush piles, leaves and other debris. Two simple safety measures can eliminate most escaped fires. Create a wide firebreak down to bare dirt around any outdoor fire, including burn barrels, and stay with your fire until it is out cold. Many wildfires can be avoided if everyone will use good outdoor fire safety.