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Bell County Commissioners Court: Burn ban temporarily lifted

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Posted: Tuesday, May 3, 2011 12:00 pm

By Sonya Campbell

Killeen Daily Herald

BELTON - Bell County Judge Jon Burrows temporarily lifted the outdoor burn ban in unincorporated areas.

Burrow, via email, said his decision to lift the burn ban until sundown Thursday was based on accumulating moisture, low temperatures and weather predictions for the next few days.

Anyone with questions about the burn ban, such as whether one is in effect, is urged to contact the Bell County Fire Marshal's Office.

The Bell County Commissioners Court, on a weekly basis, has considered whether to lift the burn ban.

The ongoing drought and high winds made conditions extremely favorable for sparking a wildfire - a concern voiced by area fire chiefs through the Bell County fire marshal at the Commissioners Court meetings.

Precinct 4 Commissioner John Fisher and Precinct 2 Commissioner Tim Brown expressed other concerns, however, about conditions being more favorable for burning in some areas of the county than others, and the danger of allowing the grass to become overgrown in the event of a fire.

At a prior meeting, county leaders commented on possibly lifting the ban in specific areas instead of countywide.

But last week, given the onslaught of wildfires throughout the state, windy conditions and drought, Fisher made the motion to keep the burn ban in effect with the vote to do so unanimous.

On Monday, Burrows - hoping for rain - brought his umbrella to the Commissioners Court meeting and he wasn't the only one.

His faith paid off, as rain fell in Killeen and surrounding areas by the afternoon.

In recent years, the threat of wildfires has increased, Killeen Fire Department Deputy Chief Kenneth Hawthorne said, noting this year's temperatures are soaring early, therefore adding to the problem.

"We're very concerned," he said Friday.

That's because firefighters know how easily a fire can ignite and how quickly it can spread and destroy everything in its path. Hawthorne said something as simple as a piece of glass can spark a fire. All it takes is the sun striking it at the right angle.

"It's just a magnifying glass. That's all it is," he said.

Hay can also generate its own heat.Hawthorne described an instance where hay generated heat in a baler, which then caught fire.

"Any little spark could start a major wildland fire," said Copperas Cove Deputy Fire Chief Gary Young on Saturday.

Young commended the Commissioners Court for imposing a burn ban when conditions called for it.

"Without the support of county officials, we would have been in trouble, we would have been hurting," he said. "It (the burn ban) keeps the number of fires down."

The Texas Forestry Service reports that 211 of the 254 counties in Texas have initiated burn bans.

Contact Sonya Campbell at sonyas@kdhnews.com or call (254) 501-7557.

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