With Parker County experiencing high heat and low humidity, while rapidly drying out due to drought, Parker County Judge Mark Riley has ordered an emergency burn ban in place as the threat of wildfire continues to grow.
“As we all know, we are currently experiencing extremely dry conditions,” Riley said. “When conditions are this dry, wildfires can happen very easily and then spread quickly. We want to do everything we can to avoid any situations similar to what happened in Palo Pinto County in 2011 or the Peaster Wildfires from the 90’s.”
With the Fourth of July holiday around the corner, residents should use extreme caution if they decide to use fireworks.
“We are already seeing late summer fuel conditions,” said George Teague with Parker County Emergency Management. “We currently have conditions that we don’t normally see until late August. My recommendation is that residents avoid using fireworks and plan to attend one of the professional local firework shows instead.”
State law limits the authority County Government has in regulating fireworks.
“We can’t tell a firework vendor he can’t sell his product,” Riley said. “According to statute if certain drought conditions had been in place earlier this month the court could have limited the sale and use of certain restricted fireworks, but the drought index level wasn’t at the legislative set threshold at the time, so our hands are somewhat tied.”
Teague said with the dry conditions we currently have in Parker County the use of any fireworks could easily lead to a grass fire if they are not used properly with proper supervision and water on hand to extinguish any flames that do erupt.
“We urge people to be vigilant and to report any grassfires to 911 immediately,” Teague said. “Again my recommendation would be to avoid the personal use of fireworks this year and enjoy a local firework show.”
The burn ban is for 7 days and is set to expire on July 5, unless it is renewed by Commissioners Court.
Violation of the burn ban is a Class C Misdemeanor and could result in a fine of up to $500 plus court costs as well as civil penalties if a fire spreads to another person’s property and causes damage.
Violations include outdoor welding, however where welding must be performed in the field, the following mitigating efforts will be in force until the burn ban has expired.
All areas where welding, cutting or grinding operations are being performed will be free of vegetation for at least twenty five feet in all directions;
Surface around welding area will be wetted down;
Wind speeds must be no more than 20 miles per hour while performing welding, cutting or grinding operations outside of barriers or enclosures;
A dedicated fire watch person will attend each welder, cutter, grinder and any activity that causes a spark;A minimum of one (1) water pressure fire extinguisher per fire watch person is required;
Each site will have cellular telephone communications for emergency response;
All welding, cutting and grinding operations may be performed in a total welding enclosure, or “welding box”, that is sufficiently high to control sparks and includes a fire retardant cover over the top. Winds speeds must not exceed 30 miles per hour while utilizing an enclosure.
Parker County Fire Marshall Kurt Harris is also urging all residents to safely enjoy their July Fourth holiday and to follow all laws regarding the use of fireworks.
The use of fireworks can easily start fires and be harmful to both life and property if not used properly, he said.
“Conditions are dry enough that grass and some vegetation can be easily ignited if proper precautions and care is not taken,” Harris said. “Fireworks are fun but if not handled properly it can quickly lead to a dangerous situation. I would echo Chief Teague’s recommendation to avoid using fireworks and go out and enjoy a professional show. ”
According to state law a person may not explode or ignite a firework within 600 feet of a church, hospital, asylum, licensed childcare or school.
Nor can residents explode or ignite fireworks within 100 feet of a place where fireworks are sold nor within 100 feet of flammable liquids or compressed gasses are stored and dispensed.
Additionally, fireworks cannot be ignited or discharged in or from a motor vehicle.
“These along with all state laws will be strictly enforced throughout the holiday weekend,” Harris said. “The Fire Marshal’s office and the Sheriff’s Office will be working additional hours to keep the public safe this 4th of July.”