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Harris County issues burn ban for unincorporated Harris County due to persistent dry conditions

People are urged to use caution when lawn mowing, barbequing, or smoking outdoors.

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FILE: Harris County Fire Marshal Laurie Christensen, left has asked the Commissioners Court to approve a burn ban.

Harris County Commissioners Court on Tuesday approved a burn ban for unincorporated parts of Harris County due to extreme temperatures throughout the region.

The burn ban means no outdoor burning is allowed in unincorporated parts of Harris County, except in an enclosure to prevent the flames from spreading.

State law requires that a county reach a certain threshold of dryness before a burn ban can be requested. Land dryness is determined using the Keetch-Byram Drought Index, which measures the potential of forest fires.

Brandi Dumas, a spokesperson for Harris County's Fire Marshal Office, said that once the county reaches a drought index larger than 575, her office is able to submit a request for a burn ban. Dumas said her office has nearly 2,000 square miles to account for.

"The county is huge, right? So we have parts of the county that are extremely dry, and we have parts of the county that they have a lot of moisture still on the ground," she said.

The burn ban will be in effect for 90 days or until Texas Forest Service determines that the county is no longer experiencing a drought. Residents who violate the ban will be hit with up to a $500 fine.

Dumas added that Harris County is doing better than expected during the drought and the ban could last less than 90 days.

She said that there are many things people can do to help limit the risk of fires during the ban.

"Making sure that people clean up their gutters and stuff like that," she said. "People are not parking old cars on top of empty lots or on grass because a lot of times that grass is dry and sometimes the sun can heat up metal."

Residents are also urged to use caution when lawn mowing, barbequing, or smoking outdoors.

Harris County joins 168 other counties that already have outdoor burn bans, including: Galveston, Liberty, Montgomery and Waller.

Patricia Ortiz

Patricia Ortiz

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Lucio Vasquez

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Lucio Vasquez is a newscast producer at Houston Public Media, NPR’s affiliate station in Houston, Texas. Over the last two years, he's covered a wide range of topics, from politics and immigration to culture and the arts. Lately, Lucio has focused his reporting primarily on public safety and criminal justice...

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