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Travis and Williamson counties issue burn bans during extreme heat

A field of corn below a blue sky.
Michael Minasi
Several Central Texas counties have issued burn bans in recent weeks.

Travis and Williamson counties issued burn bans Tuesday, joining several other Central Texas counties, including Hays, Caldwell, Bastrop and Burnet. The bans come as triple-digit temperatures continue throughout the region and severe drought conditions are spreading west to east.

Travis County Fire Marshal Tony Callaway said ground surface moisture levels are low, and tree canopies are drying up, making them more prone to fire.

"We're now starting to get into the drying stage of our large canopies,” he said. “They're okay right now, our large canopy trees, but we are heading in the direction where they will be drying out over the next several weeks."

The ban means burning brush off of your own property is illegal in unincorporated areas of the county. It also serves as a warning to all residents of the increased risk of any fire quickly spreading out of control. Callaway said people should take extra precautions with outdoor grilling and not drive onto grass.

The ban doesn’t affect firework sales or outdoor welding, cutting or grinding operations.

Williamson County Fire Marshal Hank Jones said the combination of high temperatures, heated winds and low ground surface moisture levels make the area prone to fire.

“Fine grasses will readily ignite,” he said. “They would support fire growth and fire spread."

Like Travis County, the ban on outdoor burning in Williamson County aims to keep people in unincorporated areas from burning household trash and brush. Outdoor smoking of any kind in Williamson County parks, trails and preserves is also not allowed.

It doesn’t affect the planting and harvesting of crops or outdoor welding, cutting and grinding operations.

Travis County's burn ban is scheduled to be in effect until Aug. 16, and Williamson County’s burn ban is scheduled to be in effect until Oct. 16.

Both counties consider a violation of the ban to be a Class C misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine up to $500.

Haya Panjwani is a general assignment reporter, with a focus on Travis County. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @hayapanjw.
Kailey Hunt is KUT's Williamson County reporter. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @KaileyEHunt.
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