by VERONICA GORDON
Dry conditions have prompted county officials to reinstate a countywide burn ban, effective immediately.
On Monday, the drought index was 588 and expected to increase. An index of 575 or higher is one of the indicators that a burn ban is necessary because at that point fine fuels such as grasses are drying out and can catch fire very easily.
The Hays County Commissioners Court on Tuesday also banned the sale and use of fireworks with sticks and fins due to the fire hazard they present. The court also banned burning in barrels (including barrels with screens on the top).
Burn ban and fireworks violators could face a class C misdemeanor charge with a fine up to $500. The fireworks ban does not include displays sponsored by governmental entities or to entities holding a permit from the Hays County fire marshal to conduct organized, commercial fireworks displays in unincorporated areas of the county.
Charcoal and gas grills are exempt from the current burn ban.
“If you are grilling outdoors, please use extreme caution,” Mark Chambers, Hays County Fire Marshal said in a statement.
“Make sure you have a water source nearby to douse escaping sparks and never leave your grill unattended,” Chambers said. “Place the grill away from anything else that could catch fire, including your house, and don’t dispose of coals until you are certain they are cold.”
Residents are urged to make sure vegetation is cut back and watered in compliance with any local watering restrictions. Drivers should avoid parking vehicles on grassy areas since automobile catalytic converters can start fires along the road. Tossing cigarettes on the ground can also spark a fire.