By LIBBY CLUETT
PALO PINTO COUNTY – After a weekend of several fires around the county, along with a continually rising drought index, Palo Pinto County commissioners reinstated a ban on outdoor burning.
County Fire Marshal Buddy Harwell said the average drought number was at 558 on the Keetch-Byram Drought Index. Combined with the high and low figures, he said, “They are all up and it will be dry and hot this week.”
According to the Texas A&M Forest Service website, http://texasforestservice.tamu.edu, when the KBDI is 400 – 600, “wildfire intensity begins to increase significantly.”
Harwell asked commissioners to put the burn ban back on “until we get significant rain again.”
In his monthly report on incidents in July, Harwell said it was the busiest month he has had since he started this job one-and-a-half years ago.
He said about 90 percent of the fires in July were started by fireworks.
Additionally, he said there were five house fires, two of which – one in Gordon and one in Strawn – are under investigation for arson.
Added to these, Harwell said he assisted the Brazos River Authority on the Independence Day weekend drownings.
Over the weekend, namely Saturday afternoon, several calls went out to various county departments for fires, including one involving ammunition and some that had been smoldering after lightning strikes some days ago.
Most of the weekend fires were within an hour or so from each other, according to Lone Camp Volunteer Fire Department Chief Charlie Sims, who was acting deputy fire marshal over the weekend.
One fire, just southwest of Strawn at the Copeland Ranch, smoldered in heavy timber before it was detected, according to Sims.
“It was about 20 acres in a real heavy, overgrown area,” he said, adding that Strawn and Gordon VFDs responded and Strawn thought they had it under control since it was surrounded by roads.