East Texas agencies collaborate to determine burn bans

Burn Bans in East Texas

RUSK COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - Fire warnings and burn bans are in effect in parts of East Texas since dry and hot conditions have increased the risk of wildfires.

In the last 48 hours, four burn bans have been put in place. Harrison, Rusk, Henderson, and Kaufman counties all have established burn bans.

Patrick Dooley with Rusk County Emergency Management said his office, along with local fire departments, the National Weather Service, and the Forest Service all play a part in determining if a burn ban is needed.

"The county judge can talk to one of the forest service agents and ask them okay where does our drought condition sit at," he said.

Factors like humidity, rainfall, and drought conditions are all considered. Dooley said the drought index determines the potential for forest fires.

The index ranges from 0 to 800 where 0 means the ground is moist and 800 means extremely dry conditions. Rusk's average index is 649.

Dooley said the National Weather Service helps determine the other weather factors.

"The National Weather Service, they help ... with putting out red flag warnings," he said. "They're going to tell us what the relative humidity is in the area, what our rain forecast is, and if we've even got any kind of rain in the forecast."

As for firefighters, they're able to recommend a burn ban just by doing their job.

"Just seeing what kind of calls we're running, how many they're running, you know some guys will run nothing on one day, while another department will run seven wildfire calls," he said. "Which is (the) majority of our calls between medical calls, wildfire calls that's going to be the majority of the calls especially this time of season."

Dooley said the burn ban does not affect firework usage in the county.

Dooley said according to local government code in order for the county to ban fireworks for the Fourth of July, the county would have had to implement the burn ban on June 15.

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