Runaway flames are putting Wharton County’s firefighters in danger despite a ban on outdoor burning.
“We have had seven calls for burn ban violations from when the burn ban was put into effect,” El Campo Volunteer Fire Chief Jimmy George told the newspaper Thursday.
So far, only one of those violations ended with a wildfire.
The county’s soils are continuing to dry with the current high pressure.
“These north-northeast winds are a dry wind, it dries it out that much faster,” Wharton County Emergency Management Coordinator Andy Kirkland said Thursday.
Wharton County uses the state’s Keetch-Byram Drought Index to determine if a burn ban is needed. The zero to 800 scale measures moisture missing from soil based on a county-wide average. At 500, an area is considered to be at extreme danger for wildfire.
Thursday’s average KBDI value for Wharton County was 585, with some areas exceeding 700.
The National Weather Service doesn’t call for much of a chance for rain until the middle of next week.
In the meantime, rural residents who do not have a collection service can burn household trash, but only in a burn barrel with a screen on top.
“You have to have a cover for it with a half-inch screen so the embers can’t get out,” Kirkland said, adding those who use a burn barrel must stay with it to monitor the fire and have a water source nearby in case sparks do manage to escape.
“And we’re talking about household garbage, not that pile of sticks you have,” Kirkland said.
Those violating the burn ban are subject to fines and can be held responsible for any damage the blaze causes.
“It looks like the burn ban will be in effect for the next week. There does not appear to be great chances for rain and it will be very hot for the rest of this week,” George said.