LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Angelina County Commissioners have lifted a burn ban imposed on the county for several months. Commissioners voted Friday afternoon to allow outdoor burning immediately.
That applies to areas in the county only, Lufkin city leaders say it is still illegal to burn inside the Lufkin city limits.
The relief comes after trash and debris have piled up for more than two months and despite the county's continuous struggle with drought conditions. "The court decided that at this time, based on moisture content and some of the favorable variables to go ahead and rescind that declaration of disaster and lift the burn ban," according to County Judge Wes Suiter.
"I think we're okay right now. If we're going to do any outdoor burning this year, let's go ahead and do it now and get it over with," said Chief Dennis Cochran, Central VFD.
County officials and firefighters urge extreme caution.
The drought is not over, yet. In fact, the county is lagging at least 15 inches behind in its water supply this year, even though in recent weeks the area has been averaging about an inch of rain a week. Experts say that is simply not enough to make up for the long dry spell.
And, now with the onset of cooler temperatures, KTRE Chief Meteorologist Brad Hlozek says there are different drought indicators to be considered, "The problem is we need more than average if we're going to cut into that rainfall deficit so right now we're just on par with precipitation. In other words, we are getting just enough rain each week to keep conditions from worsening."
"I think what's happening is you're getting a lot of pressure from the community because let's face it, a lot of people rely on that burning in order to get rid of their trash," said Hlozek.
Firefighters warn if conditions do not improve soon, the burn ban could be reinstated.
In the meantime, they say do not burn close to a building, or when it is windy. "Definitely keep the water hose nearby. And, if in doubt, call us and we'll be there," said Cochran.
Chief Cochran also says keep your piles small and do not try to burn everything at once.
The costly summer wildfires that scorched thousands of acres in East Texas are still top of mind for officials and should be for local residents. "Right now, our volunteer fire departments are stretched with the wildfires they fought, not in our county, but surrounding counties for the last few months and we need to give them a break," said Suiter.
The burn ban for the City of Huntington, which is in Angelina County, will not be lifted until 8 Saturday morning.
Suiter says the bottomline is if you cannot stay with the fire, do not start it.
The county judge will continue to monitor the situation along with other emergency officials. If needed, he is able to reinstate an emergency declaration for seven days.
In addition to Angelina County, burn bans in Nacogdoches, Shelby, San Augustine, Trinity, Cherokee and Houston counties have been lifted.
The Lufkin City Council could consider lifting its burn ban next week, according to Councilman Robert Shankle. In the meantime, it is against the law to burn within the Lufkin boundaries.