Ongoing dry and potentially hazardous conditions prompted area county officials to issue burn bans earlier this week to safeguard public safety. Of the four counties adjacent to Titus County, only Red River County to the immediate north is still without an official prohibition on outdoor burning.
Titus joined Camp, Franklin and Morris counties in officially declaring burn bans earlier in the week. Morris County was the last holdout among the four, with county judge Lynda Munkres adopting the disaster declaration Thursday based on Texas Forest Service advisories for Northeast Texas and across the state. Morris County Commissioners Court will be asked to reaffirm Munkres’ declaration during its next regular meeting.
Monday night, Titus County Judge Brian Lee signed a disaster declaration effectively immediately and until further notice.
The orders prohibit all outdoor burning in the county for a period of 90 days unless lifted by either the Texas Forest Service or commissioners court.
The order specifies that it does not prohibit outdoor burning activities related to public health and safety that are authorized by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for firefighting training, public utility, natural gas pipeline or mining operation, planting or harvesting of agricultural crops or burns that are conducted by a prescribed burn manager under certain state codes.
Elsewhere around Northeast Texas, burn bans have been adopted by Bowie, Cass, Gregg, Harrison, Marion and Upshur counties, leaving only Red River, Hopkins and Wood counties presently without bans in the immediate area.
Camp County Judge Thomas Cravey said a disaster declaration burn ban was adopted Aug. 11 after a series of weekend brush fires required assistance from local firefighting units.
“We’ve had it (the burn ban) aor about three weeks, after reviewing Texas Forest Service drought advisories. We also consulted with our emergency services responders,” Cravey said. “We went with the disaster declaration because it gives us more flexibility and covers the entire county, not just the unincorporated areas.”
Cravey said City of Pittsburg officials asked commissioners to make the ban effective inside Pittsburg city limits as well.
State law gives counties two options in adopting burn bans, including a disaster declaration as called by the county judge and reaffirmed by commissioners court, and a commissioners court declaration, which takes in only unincorporated areas.
Locally, all four counties adopted disaster declarations introduced by county judges.
The Titus County declaration states the county “has had no received rainfall for an extended period, and weather forecasters offer little promise of a change in the dry conditions in the near future; and
“Whereas, these hot, dry conditions pose the threat of large, dangerous and fast-moving wildfires; and
“Whereas, such fires have the potential of endangering lives and damaging property on large scale; and
“Whereas, the Texas Disaster Act of 1975 authorized declaration of a state of disaster "If the threat of disaster is imminent" and
“Whereas, the magnitude of the potential damage and the rapidity at which such a fire could escalate to major proportions constitute an imminent threat of disaster; and
“Whereas, declaration of such disaster authorized the imposition of controls on activities which tend to increase the likelihood of fires; and
“Whereas, such controls, once implemented, have the potential of protecting lives and property by mitigating the threat of dangerous fires.”
Texas Forest Service has identified 14,506 communities as being at risk for wildfires. Surprisingly, many populated areas are more at risk, due to the increased number of human-caused fires.
People and their activities cause more than 90 percent of all wildfires in the state. Careless debris burning (of household trash, brush and leaf piles, garden spots, etc.) results in the largest number of human-caused wildfires, TFS studies show.