These Houston-area counties issue outdoor burn bans due to drought conditions, high risk of fire dangers

Several Texas counties have issued an outdoor burn ban due to drought conditions and the high risk of fire dangers. (Texas A&M Forest Service Map)

FORT BEND COUNTY – Several counties have issued an outdoor burn ban due to drought conditions and the high risk of fire dangers.

The bans will limit the use of open flames, which includes the burning of trash, campfires, burn barrels, and other open flame devices that can ignite combustible materials and result in personal injury, property damage, and loss of life.

The City of Houston also announced that it has entered Stage One of its drought contingency plan. The plan calls for water conservation measures when there is an observed drop in annual rainfall amounts and higher-than-normal daily temperatures.

To view a full map of Texas counties under burn bans, click here.

Here’s what the following counties are saying about the burn ban:

Harris County

County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced that the burn ban is in effect, stating that the county is at risk of wildfires with a drought index of 681, compared to the 300 in June 2021.

Hidalgo said no outdoor burning, other than grilling or welding, will be allowed.

“Please be careful. In a drought, sparks, cigarette butts, etc. can burn quickly. Report fires to 911,” she tweeted.

Fort Bend County

Fort Bend County is one of the many counties experiencing drought conditions as extreme record-setting temperatures continue.

“With the passing of the burn ban, I would ask that our Fort Bend County residents also exercise extreme caution with the use of fireworks as they celebrate over the 4th of July weekend,” County Judge KP George said. “Because of the extremely dry conditions, we don’t want to risk the safety of our residents and their property. Additionally, we don’t want to over-extend our fire and emergency medical service personnel due to a high number of preventable emergency calls.”

Based on the Fort Bend County Fire Marshal’s findings, and in alignment with The Keetch-Byram Drought Index, the commissioners’ court came to a consensus that circumstances present in the county can potentially create a public safety hazard. According to the release, the drought index is based on a daily water balance, where a drought factor is balanced with precipitation and soil moisture measurements. The drought index ranges from 0 to 800, where a drought index of 0 represents no moisture depletion, and an index of 800 represents absolutely dry conditions.

Currently, Fort Bend County’s index is at 665 and it is predicted to be over 700 by the weekend, according to the release.

County Judge KP George is authorized to sign an order rescinding this Declaration and Order if he determines, upon consultation with the County Fire Marshal, that drought conditions or hazardous circumstances no longer exist.

Brazoria County

Brazoria County said its Keetch-Byram Drought Index for the county on June 22 was 684 (countywide average) and continues to rise as the Summer heat dries out the soil and vegetation, according to a release. Once the KBDI reaches within the 600-800 range, drought conditions are considered severe, with an increasing concern for wildfires.

This burn ban does not affect the sale or use of fireworks in unincorporated areas.

Montgomery County

Montgomery County and most of southeast Texas did not see much of the tropical rainfall that had been forecast leading up to the holiday weekend. As a result, the overall drought levels continue to creep up each day.

As the Keetch Byram Drought Index has now crossed 650, (a level historically associated with increased fire activity), Montgomery County Commissioner’s Court approved a “County Burn Ban” as defined in Texas Local Government Code 352.081.

While most trash burning is prohibited year round in Montgomery County, the adoption of a County Burn Ban extends that prohibition to the burning of limbs and leaves gathered on residential property. Under State Law, the burn ban cannot be extended to cover the discharge of consumer fireworks and it does not prohibit outdoor grilling or cooking.

The Montgomery County Fire Marshal’s Office presented these findings to Commissioner’s Court Tuesday morning and the court decided that a 30-day burn ban would be the most prudent course of action. The court can revisit the issue and extend the ban if conditions do not improve by that time.

Violation of the burn ban is a Class C Misdemeanor with fines up to $500.

Chambers County

Chambers County is now under a Burn Ban as of July 30.

Although Chambers County has experienced sporadic rainfall, we have not received enough to lower the drought index below 575, which determines drought conditions.  The current average drought index in Chambers County is 671, as determined by Texas Forest Service. With the lack of significant rainfall over a long period of time, the vegetation cannot absorb enough moisture to lower the drought index to safe levels.

On July 29, 2022, multiple Chambers County Fire Departments and the Texas Forest Service responded to a large wildfire that was determined to have been started because of outdoor burning.  Fire departments worked hard to keep this fire from spreading to nearby homes.  Fortunately, there were no lives or homes lost.

The Burn Ban will remain in effect until conditions improve.

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