As a light drizzle fell outside the Guadalupe County Courthouse for parts of the commissioners’ regular meeting and forecasts called for the possibility of more precipitation, the court decided against implementing a burn ban Tuesday morning in Seguin.
A split vote of 2-3 nixed the ban, but with a caveat. County Judge Kyle Kutscher said he would monitor conditions, which some forecasts said could change with precipitation predictions ranging from the zero to 40% range in coming days.
“It’s a hard one to explain when you are dealing with those types of conditions,” Kutscher said of informing county citizens about a burn ban when wet weather seems to be possible.
County Fire Marshal Patrick Pinder recommended the ban during Tuesday’s meeting of the Guadalupe County Commissioners Court. He said there was dry, dead grass across the county that could provide ample fuel for fires.
The rain amounts that have fallen in recent days are not enough to allay his concerns about outdoor burning, Pinder said.
“In December, we had several fires related to fireworks,” he said. “Last week with the rains, I felt it was time to put the burn ban on.”
The Keetch-Byram Drought Index, which the county uses to determine the amount of moisture in the ground, was at about 538 when he checked it Monday, Pinder said. Guadalupe County uses a KBDI threshold of 500 to trigger burn ban talks.
The fire marshal and the county judge said they would be in contact everyday this week and Pinder said he’d continue to monitor the KBDI.
In the event rains miss the area and the index doesn’t improve, Pinder will alert Kutscher and the judge can then take action. The judge has the authority to call for a burn ban if he deems it necessary and then he could have the entire court ratify the prohibition at its next meeting.
The next regularly scheduled commissioners court meeting is Jan. 28.
Pinder had taken an inventory of what other area counties were doing related to outdoor burning.
Comal County had a KBDI reading of 515 and had instituted a burn ban, the fire marshal said. Hays County’s KBDI was at 524 and that county also was under outdoor burning restrictions on Tuesday, Pinder said.
Same for Bexar County, which had instituted an outdoor burning prohibition while its KBDI reading was 505, he said.
Pinder stood by his recommendation for the burn ban. He said people would still have options to get rid of their brush and rubbish even if the burn ban were in effect.
Burning would even be an option, Pinder said.
“If we put the burn ban on,it would go into effect (Wednesday) and it would last until April 15,” he said. “Just like any burn ban, if people need to burn, they can contact us for a permit to burn.”
Precinct 3 Commissioners Jim Wolverton made the motion to institute the burn ban and Commissioner Drew Engelke of Precinct 2 seconded the motion. Theirs were the only votes in favor of the ban.