County puts hold on burn ban

Howard County Commissioners opted to table a proposed burn ban Monday morning following a weekend of intermittent rainfall throughout the Crossroads area, moisture local firefighting officials say should buy residents a few weeks of relative safety from wildfires.Precinct 3 Commissioner Jimmie Long — serving in place of County Judge Mark Barr, who was unable to attend Monday's meeting — said the county had received a recommendation from Volunteer Fire Department Chief Tommy Sullivan to table the proposed county-wide ban for a minimum of two weeks.“The fire risk is down substantially because of the rainfall we've recently received,” Long said. “He (Sullivan) has asked that we table the burn ban at this time and we can come back in the next couple of weeks and see where we are at with things then.”The court voted unanimously to table to ban.Sullivan said the risk of wildfire is down considerably in the Howard County area, thanks to recent rainfall.“Any time you get a quarter-inch or more of rain, you buy yourself around 10 to 15 days,” Sullivan said. “That rain will start another growth spurt. If you dig down about four to six inches you'll find a good bit of moisture, so we'll see things begin to green-up a good bit over the next week or so, which will greatly reduce the risk of wildfires or grass fires.”Sullivan said the fireworks provided by the recent July 3 Pops in the Park celebration allowed him and other firefighters to establish a benchmark on the level of wildfire risk in the Crossroads area, and, surprisingly, the results were better than expected.“With the Pops in the Parks celebration and the subsequent fireworks, we were able to see how the grass and other vegetation would react to the embers,” Sullivan said. “It didn't spark up and burst into flames immediately like we had expected, so the plants are retaining more of the moisture. That's a very good sign for us.”While the volunteer firefighters enjoy a bit of relief from battling wildfires and grass fires thanks to the recent rains, Sullivan said there has still been plenty for them to do in the meantime.“There are more than 100 different types of fires, so wildfires is just one of them,” he said with a laugh. “Saturday morning we had an 18-wheeler with locked up breaks that started a fire on Interstate 20, near mile marker 184. We had to close down the Interstate for about five minutes and work on that. Then, Saturday night we had a property owner on N. Salem Road who had a fire get away from them. It only burned about 5-6 acres before we got it out. Unfortunately, just because we get a little rain, that doesn't mean we get to sit around and enjoy the quiet.”While wildfire risks are down, Sullivan said it's still very important for area residents to be hyper-vigilant when it comes to burning or other activities.“Right now folks are doing a really good job of being safe and I'd ask them to simply keep doing that,” he said. “There are fires we simply can't prevent, like these electrical fires and these tank battery fires. Those are going to happen no matter what we do. It's the fires caused by human carelessness we can prevent and we have to continue to be vigilant against those kinds of fires.”