By Judy Sheridan
The 7-day outdoor burn ban County Judge Mark Riley authorized July 15 through an emergency order was extended by county commissioners to Aug. 26 in a special session Friday.
“We typically do this for 30 days,” the judge said, prior to the unanimous vote. “We’d like to do it for 45; that will get us to the Aug. 26 court meeting before it expires.”
Parker County has dried out rapidly in the last few weeks, Fire Marshal Shawn Scott told the court, and was shown to be in severe drought conditions by the U.S. Drought Monitor July 11.
“Our Keetch-Byram Drought Index has dried out very quickly since the first of June,” Scott said. “The National Weather Service said this year alone we need nine to 12 inches of rain just to get back to a normal state.”
Adding to the problem, he said, is the fact that the county ended 2012 with a 10-inch rainfall deficit.
The Index, which measures soil moisture, puts the county average at 527, with the west side of the county, at 577, drier than the east side, at 473.
Scott reported a slim chance of above average rainfall in the next two weeks, “which in July doesn’t amount to much anyway.”
The three-month outlook, however, shows below average rainfall and above average temperatures, he said.
The high number of holiday fire calls was “a good indicator” of the need for a burn ban, Scott said, as well as the KBDI numbers.
From 9 p.m. to midnight July 4, the fire marshal’s office reported 83 fire calls across the county, including five structure fires.
Scott said that critically dry trees, as well as dead standing vegetation lost over the last two years, are fueling dangerous and erratic fire behavior.
Violations of the burn ban are punishable by a fine of up to $500.
For more information, go to www.parkercountyemergencymanagement.com.