Burn ban violators one of many problems during E. Texas drought

NACOGDOCHES COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - Smoke prompted a stop on State Highway 21 East. A closer look revealed fire Dangerously close to homes in Melrose East. Arriving firefighters speculated the cause.

"I wonder if they was out burning," one Woden firefighter said.

The hunch is correct.

"Lady lit a brush fire and it got away," a Melrose resident said.

At least four firefighting agencies went to work to keep the fire contained.

Meanwhile a deputy constable looked for the fire ban violator who can expect a $300 fine.

"I talked to the JP's office a while ago, you know, they got ten other ones," Deputy Constable Shawn Murray said.

All this when the burning index is very high. It's a measurement tied to weather.

"And another one is called ERC," said John Boyette, a Texas Forest Service District forester. "That's an Energy Release Component. And that is a function of the dryness of both green and dead fuels. All the vegetation that's out there that could burn."

Fire dangers are at a critical level. Even so, counties are reluctant to pass firework bans.

"We've watched the numbers every day," Nacogdoches County Judge Joe English said. "They just weren't there."

Until today.

"Almost the entire state is about the 97th percentile and that's as high as it gets," Boyette said.

It came too late. Today was the deadline for county commissioners to enact a firework ban and it wasn't on the agenda. The governor is now the only one with the power to enact a ban.

Firefighters hope the decision to make fireworks legal won't have the same results as when a person burned illegally.

"They just wasn't thinking and it bit 'em," one neighbor said.

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