HOUSTON - A burn ban is now in effect in Harris County as drought conditions worsen and rainfall totals remain low.
The Harris County Commissioners Court enacted the ban on Tuesday for all areas of unincorporated Harris County due to an increased threat of wildfires across the area.
There are now 171 Texas counties with burn bans, including Harris, Galveston, Waller, Fort Bend, Brazoria, Liberty and other surrounding counties.
"Unprecedented temperatures and a lack of rain has elevated KBDI levels for this time of the year" said Fire Marshal Laurie L. Christensen in a statement. "Although we have seen some rain, it's not enough to lower the drought index levels across the county. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security with rain in parts of Harris County – the vegetation fuels are high due to drought conditions in not only open areas but, residential properties and roadways adjacent to grass and brush."
The news comes ahead of the Fourth of July holiday, but fireworks sales can continue because the ban did not meet the legislative criteria for implementation based on the KBDI numbers on June 15.
The Fire Marshals Office is strongly encouraging all residents to attend professional fireworks displays.
For those who want to operate their own fireworks, you're urged to read the cautionary labels, have a water source near in case of emergencies, and soak used fireworks before disposing them in the trash.
No outdoor burning is allowed except: in an enclosure that contains all flames and/or sparks; outdoor burning activities authorized by TCEQ; approved ceremonial fires; non-commercial cooking such as backyard cookouts and barbeques are allowed; and welding and other "hot work" performed in accordance with county fire code requirements.
Those who violate the burn ban face a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $500 fine. In addition, any person who starts a fire that causes damage to property without the consent of the owner may be charged with Reckless Damage or Destruction, a Class C misdemeanor, or arson, a felony.
If you see an unattended fire, call 9-1-1 and notify your local fire department immediately. Even a small fire can spread quickly and threaten people and property.