By Jackie Stone
Killeen Daily Herald
BELTON - Bell County officials have extended a burn ban through Sept. 13 as the ground remains parched and temperatures stay high through late summer.
Fire Marshal Steve Casey presented the latest information about
ground conditions and the chance of fire to county commissioners at their regular meeting Monday morning.
The county is averaging 514 on the drought index, with a high at 629.
"Drought conditions are 575, but above 500 is bad," Casey said.
Casey said the county is trying to be proactive by continuing the burn ban before an outbreak of grassfires.
County Judge Jon Burrows said the county has been lucky in the number of grassfires it has seen so far this summer.
A hay baler sparked a 55-acre grass fire north of Harker Heights last week, one of the larger incidents Casey mentioned Monday morning.
All outdoor burning continues to be banned in unincorporated areas of Bell County until 10 a.m. on Sept. 13.
The Killeen area has been under an extended heat advisory that continues through 8 p.m. tonight, and may be continued, said Jesse Moore, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth.
Moore said the streak of temperatures in the upper 90s that has persisted for the last month is not likely to break in the next week or more.
"There's about a 20 percent chance of thunderstorms (Monday night). Otherwise, it's going to be hot and dry for the next week," he said.
In addition to extending the burn ban, Bell County Commissioners reannounced dates to presentation and public hearings on the county budget and tax rate for Aug. 23.
Final approval is scheduled for Aug. 30.
Commissioners also approved the order of general election for the Nov. 2 election, when the offices up for elections include county judge, county clerk, two commissioners, county court at law judges and justices of the peace.
Before the meeting, State Rep. Ralph Sheffield presented a resolution to County Treasurer Charles Jones for being named the nation's 2010 outstanding county treasurer.
Among his listed accomplishments were earning the county more than $33 million in interest in the course of more than 25 years.