- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—The Walker County Commissioners Court voted Monday to ban outdoor burning effective immediately.

Despite all the rain the county received over the past few months, emergency management coordinator Butch Davis recommended that a burn ban be instated because of the recent lack of precipitation and scorching temperatures. Davis said that the Texas Forest Service has responded to 14 grass fires in Walker County since July 19.

The county’s Keetch-Byram Drought Index rating average as of Monday afternoon was 549. The KBDI is used to determine forest fire potential on a scale of zero to 800 with 800 representing absolute dry conditions.

The driest part of Walker County is 576, which is around the number Davis usually recommends a burn ban, and the wettest is 470.

“The reason why I recommend the burn ban early was to get ahead of things,” Davis said. “It is really dry right now. With the heat index between 102 and 107 every afternoon, it has been a real problem.”

The burn ban states that all outdoor burning is prohibited in Walker County for 90 days unless the ban is lifted before that by County Judge Danny Pierce. The order does not prohibit outdoor burning related to public health and safety authorized by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for firefighting training; public utility, natural gas pipeline or mining operations; planting or harvesting of agricultural crops; or controlled burns.

The Sam Houston National Forest is also exempt from the burn ban.

“We will continue to monitor the conditions,” Davis said. “We just don’t want to get into another situation like we did in 2011 with all the wildfires. It is really dry right now and we want to take precautions.”

A violation of the burn ban is a Class C misdemeanor, which is punishable of a fine not to exceed $500.

In other business Monday, the Commissioners Court:

—Approved District Court’s records archive fee.

—Approved rate of pay for election workers.

—Approved poll places for the Nov. 3, 2015 general election.

—Approved the joint election for the Nov. 3, 2015 election.

—Approved disbursement report for June 18 through July 7 in the amount of $1.575 million.

—Approved disbursement report for July 9 through July 20 in the amount of $891,007.

—Approved Texas Association of Counties renewal application for auto liability, auto physical damage, general liability, public officials liability and law enforcement liability.

—Approved claims and invoices submitted for payment.

—Approved the 2015 audit fee in the amount of $25,000 to be paid from budgeted funds.

—Approved the sale of 38 surplus computers to the New Waverly School District for $1.

—Approved a change to personnel allocation from part-time to full-time deputy constable of Precinct 4 with costs to be paid from available budgeted funds.

—Approved authorizing the use of a building at 344 Highway 75 North, suite 200 as a dedicated Emergency Operations Center at a cost of $10,000 from contingency funds for start-up costs.

—Approved first and second quarter volunteer fire department reports.

—Approved repairs to Stubblefield Lake Road bridge due to flooding.

—Approved Texas Department of Motor Vehicle imposition of optional fees calendar year 2016.

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