Breckenridge Texan

Burn ban still in effect as wildfire threat continues

Burn ban still in effect as wildfire threat continues
February 26
16:50 2018

On Monday, Stephens County Commissioners voted to continue the county-wide fire ban as wildfire danger remains high in the area. The burn ban has been in place for several months.

Despite the county already being under a burn ban, local firefighters responded a wildfire on Saturday near the Wayland community that was caused by someone burning brush that got out of control. They also responded to a bonfire on Sunday night near Hubbard Creek Lake that was called into the fire department by multiple callers as a structure fire at about 8 p.m.

Sunday night’s fire was off of County Road 208 and could be seen for miles as fire units from the Breckenridge Fire Department and Hubbard Creek Volunteer Fire Department responded with all the equipment necessary to fight a structure fire. They did not know it was a bonfire — not a structure fire — until they were about a block away, according to Breckenridge Fire Chief Calvin Chaney.

“That’s how we respond,” Chaney said. “Until we got right there, until that point, we’re all responding full ‘Code 3.’  We’re trying to get there so we can save somebody’s life or somebody house, or somebody’s property. We don’t know, we don’t have a clue. We just know we’re going to a reported structure fire.”

Cheney said that because the fire was called in as a structure fire and was located in the Hubbard Creek VFD coverage area, he called for their assistance and told them they needed to bring the equipment and water necessary to fight such a fire.

“When something is reported as a house fire, we want as much help to get there as quickly as we can,” he said.

Chaney said even when there is not a burn ban in effect and burning brush is legal, burning at night is still illegal under state law. He said a person is subject to a fine up to $500 for illegal burning.

There are several ways citizens can determine if the county is under a burn ban at any given time. The Breckenridge Fire Department’s non-emergency phone number is 254-559-6242; they will be able to tell you if there’s a burn ban in effect. Additionally, there are burn ban flags in front of the courthouse and across the street from the courthouse. And, the Texas A&M Forest Service maintains a website page showing which counties in Texas have burn bans. Click here for that website.

During a burn ban, the only kind of burning that is legal is a prescribed fire, and that requires a permit and burn plan from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Fire danger in the county remains high because tall grass in the area is dry, and Chaney said with warmer temperatures coming, it’s just going to make the dry grass easier to ignite and faster to spread. Even if it rains, he said, it only helps for that day.

“That’s what people do not understand — the grass is dormant; it’s dead,” he said. “With all the freezes and the frost, it’s killed it and it’s just laying there waiting for something to happen.”

Chaney said burning in the dry conditions puts everybody in the area at risk. He said the fire can be spread by burning embers carried through the air that can ignite dry grass in other areas.

“All they had to do was call us,” Chaney said of the people who started the weekend fires. “If they had called us, we would have told you automatically ‘No, you can’t burn. No that’s against the law.’”


Story by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan

Cutline, top photo: Firefighters from the Breckenridge Fire Department and the Hubbard Creek Volunteer Fire Department extinguish a bonfire off County Road 208 Sunday night. Several units were called to scene after it was mistakenly called in as a structure fire. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)


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