ANGLETON — People living in unincorporated areas of Brazoria County will be restricted from burning their trash and debris starting today, county leaders decided.
Brazoria County Commissioners’ Court approved issuing a 90-day countywide burn ban during its meeting Tuesday, citing the lack of widespread rainfall and a high reading on the index used to gauge the risk of wildfire.
The reading on the Keetch-Byram Drought Index in the driest areas of the county stood at 713 on Monday, Brazoria County Fire Marshal Martin Vela told commissioners. Readings over 600 on the 800-point scale are considered highly susceptible to wildfires.
The county’s average Keetch-Byram Drought Index is 600, Vela said.
Areas that have enjoyed some rain showers in recent days were at 401, which is barely in the range of concern, but they still are at risk of wildfires, especially when the winds are gusty, Vela said.
It has been more than a year since Brazoria County has been under a burn ban, with the last one lifted in July 2018.
As of Sept. 3, about 35 percent of Southeast Texas was experiencing conditions associated with drought, according to the National Weather Service website. Statewide, two-thirds is considered abnormally dry and 42 percent are in the moderate drought range, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
The county has received less than a half-inch of rainfall so far in September after finishing August below average, which is a long-term trend in the county, based on National Weather Service data.
An increase in wildfires in the county has occurred due to a long-term deficit of moisture, County Judge Matt Sebesta said at Tuesday’s commissioner meeting.
“The Commissioners Court has determined that outdoor burning will be prohibited or restricted for the next 90 days, the first effective day being Sept. 11,” Sebesta said.
The order comes with the stipulation Sebesta can lift the ban without requiring a vote by the full court. Normally that is when the index dips below 400 for five consecutive days, but Commissioner David Linder argued readings of 450 would be reasonable in this case. Vela agreed with the suggestion.
Brazoria County residents still can use barbecue pits and have fires if they are contained in an enclosure, Vela said, but open burning is prohibited. Anyone who is caught violating the ban can be fined up to $500.
Drought is proving to be a trend throughout the state of Texas.
“Throughout the state of Texas, we have over 170 counties that are currently under an active burn ban,” Vela said.