Breckenridge Texan

Elevated fire danger leads to burn ban for Stephens County

Elevated fire danger leads to burn ban for Stephens County
January 18
13:09 2019

The Stephens County Commissioners met in an emergency called session at 11 a.m. Friday, Jan. 18, to enact a county-wide burn ban. The ban will continue through Jan. 28.

Breckenridge Fire Chief Calvin Chaney addressed the commissioners and explained that information from the Texas Interagency Coordination Center indicates that this area is currently at a risk for wildfires. The TICC uses several conditions in determining fire danger, including wind, humidity, precipitation, drought conditions and more.

“It is my recommendation, using the Texas Forest Service/TICC information that we’re getting into a critical situation,” Chaney said, adding that the burn ban should be enforced until the next regularly scheduled County Commissioners meeting.

According to the Texas Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal, most of Stephens County is in the moderate- to high-risk category. Some areas to the east of Stephens County, including the Palo Pinto and Lacasa areas are in the severe-risk category, Chaney said. Shackelford County reinstated a burn ban on Tuesday, he said.

The TICC is a cooperative effort of the Texas A&M Forest Service, the US Fish & Wildlife Service, the US Forest Service, the National Park Service, Texas Parks & Wildlife, The Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Nature Conservancy.

The burn ban means that all brush burning is prohibited unless the landowner has a burn plan approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Activities such as welding, barbecue grills, etc., are allowed. “If you do any of those things, be cautious,” Chaney said. “I suggest that you have water on hand and a spotter for each device that’s emitting sparks.”

Tony Baeza, a soil conservationist with the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service in Stephens County, said that his office is open and available to work with landowners in creating a burn plan, if they need to set up a prescribed burn. The process takes about three days to approve, he said.  For more information on prescribed burn plans, call Baeza at 254-559-2333, extension 3.

Some of the reasons for the increased risk for wildfire include a lot of dry grass in the area, as well as high winds and low humidity in the forecast.

According to the National Weather Service, the high for today, Friday, Jan. 18, is expected to be near 76 degrees. Winds will be from the west-southwest at 15 to 20 mph with gusts as high as 25 mph.

Tonight, there is a 30 percent chance of showers and a predicted low of about 35 degrees. The winds will continue, becoming north-northwest at 25 to 30 mph in the evening. Winds could gust as high as 35 mph.

On Saturday, Jan. 19, a cold front will likely have moved into the area; the skies should be sunny, but the high is expected to be only 45 degrees. The north-northwest winds will continue at 15 to 25 mph, with gusts as high as 30 mph. Saturday night, the temperatures may drop as low as 28 degrees with the north wind becoming lighter, 10 to 15 mph.

The weather should start to warm up again on Sunday. The high is predicted at 56, and the winds should be light and from the south. Overnight, Sunday into Monday, the low should be about 41 degrees. On Monday, the National Weather Service predicts sunny skies and a high of 63 degrees. However, the winds are expected to pick up again, from the south at 15 to 20 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph.

 

Story by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan

Cutline, top photo: Breckenridge Fire Chief Calvin Chaney, center, addresses Stephens County Commissioners, including Will Warren, left, and Mark McCullough, as they look over maps showing the elevated fire danger for the area. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

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