Social media a tool for burn ban awareness

With the burn ban back on in Hays County, emergency officials are turning to social media to spread up-to-date information to residents at a faster rate.

On June 5, the Hays County Commissioners Court placed unincorporated areas and extra territorial jurisdictions of the county under a burn ban that prohibits any outside burning that is not contained.

Hays County Fire Marshall Clint Browning said that the decision was based on the number of fires responded to recently and their intensity, lack of rain and soil dryness. A poll of area fire chiefs also showed them being in favor of placing the ban in effect, Browning said.

Any state peace officer can enforce the burn ban, Browning said, and a violation of the burn ban can mean a fine of up to $500.

“The biggest thing is the whole intention is for the safety of the public. We’re not trying to deny anyone their right to destroy materials. We’re trying to keep spread from getting out of hand,” He said. “It’s getting to the point it’s dangerous to burn and be hard to contain during drought conditions.”

Fire departments keep residents safe is by distributing information about burning safety and updates on any bans in place, Kyle Fire Department Captain Mark Schultz said. Oftentimes, that means posing on Facebook or Twitter.

“Social media has been an incredible benefit to us in terms of letting people know what’s going on, from a closed road to a fire,” Schultz said. “Our department has been great at utilizing that to let people know what’s going on.”

The burn ban likely will not be lifted until the area sees a few days of rain, he said. Hays County’s burn ban does not extend to most types of grills, Schultz said.

“It’s okay to have a barbecue,” he said. “As long as it’s a confined fire, that’s okay.”

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