Fewer Counties Keeping Burn Bans in Place
At one point in in August, a record 251 out of the state's 254 drought-stricken counties banned outdoor burning. But thanks to last week's cold front and showers, that number has dropped to 220 according to the Associated Press. All the counties around Austin still have bans on outdoor burning. Travis County just readopted one earlier this week. But counties and the Texas Forest Service both realize that Texas is a long way from breaking the drought.
"Each one of those counties will have lifted their bans for their own reasons but things that factor into those decisions are weather events, mainly rainfall, and how the vegetation in those counties have responded. But the county officials making these decisions are basing that also on public and fire department requests. They're having to weight all these different factors to make these decisions," said Lexi Maxwell, a wildland urban interface specialist with the Texas Forest Service.
The counties that have lifted their bans can just as quickly reinstate them. And, yes, cooler weather is coming, but that doesn't mean the fire danger will go down. In fact, blustery winter winds and dry vegetation could set up a very active winter fire season.
"It's all going to depend on the weather conditions. If we get additional rainfall and the precipitation amounts warrant that the drought conditions drop off, then there is a good possibility that counties that do receive rain would consider lifting their burn bans." Maxwell told KUT News. "On the other hand, if things continue to dry out or we don't get significant rainfall, then the current burn bans will probably hold," says Maxwell.