As of Wednesday, Gregg County is back under a burn ban, one of 139 current orders throughout the state’s 254 counties.
Surrounding areas are in the same condition: Rusk County’s burn ban is still in place alongside Smith, Upshur, Harrison, Panola and others, established by their respective county judges and commissioners.
Facing an “imminent threat of disaster,” according to county judge Bill Stoudt’s Wednesday order, outdoor burning not contained by an enclosure is prohibited in unincorporated areas of Gregg County through the duration of the ban. Violating the order is a misdemeanor, and offenders can face a fine of up to $500.
Gregg County currently has a mean rating of 688 on the Keetch-Byram Drought Index, used to gauge the potential of forest fires.
According to online portal of Texas A&M’s Texas Weather Connection, “The drought index is based on a daily water balance, where a drought factor is balanced with precipitation and soil moisture (assumed to have a maximum storage capacity of 8-inches) and is expressed in hundredths of an inch of soil moisture depletion.”
The index ranges from 0 to 800: from ‘no moisture depletion’ at the base to ‘absolutely dry conditions’ at high risk of forest fire.
Indications in Gregg County range from 644 in some areas to 735 on the high end of the scale. Some areas of Rusk County rate as low as 567 but other locations peak at 718 – Rusk has an average rating of 662.36 on the KBDI as of Friday afternoon.
– By JAMES DRAPER