Notes from the Peanut Gallery

Monday, January 28, 2008

Burn Bans don't apply to everyone

This is what can happen when you think you know better than the Texas Forest Service about Burn Bans. The owner of the Kinney County property pictured in this series of photos (just click them to enlarge them) decided late yesterday afternoon to burn a little patch of his land despite the burn ban. His fire got out of control and threatened farms and ranches on every side of his property. It was literally within feet of one of the fire department member's family's property. It was right across the road from a very large and active farm in the county.

In Texas you can have a controlled burn on your property if you will allow the state to help you. It's free! But not during a burn ban. The reason is because it's too dangerous. If this landowner would have had just a little patience he could have had all the help he wanted with his controlled burn with very little risk to his property or that of his neighbors. But, no, like so many farmers and ranchers everywhere he decided he was experienced enough and smart enough to organize his own controlled burn and this is the result.

Instead of burning a tiny sliver of land on his property as he intended, he instead burned at least half or more of his property. No structures were damaged. The land will pop right back up from this fire. Ultimately this fire will be a help to his property. He'll probably have to replace some fencing. But he's very lucky that the Brackettville Volunteer Fire Department was able to come out and get the fire under control before it spread to other properties where it could easily have destroyed crops, homes, structures, vehicles, livestock, or even people.
Burn bans DO apply to everyone and with good reason. Please, if you must burn, just wait until the burn ban is lifted. The state will help you. It's free. And it's oh so much safer.

Above: Just this narrow strip of caliche separated the property with the uncontrolled "controlled" fire and the working ranch next to it. Sparks can cross a caliche road as easy as you please.

Below: This two lane road was the only thing in between a large, local, working farm and the raging grassfire a stone's throw away. Thousands of dollars worth of equipment (just out of shot) were at risk not to mention the property itself.

Lucky for this landowner, Kinney County law enforcement doesn't have the man power to enforce burn bans. This landowner will not be fined unless one of his neighbors chooses to press charges for endangering their property. In any other county with law enforcement that has the time and man (or woman) power, this landowner would have had a hefty fine filed against him. As it stands, there will be no consequences to this landowner for his actions. For this reason many Brackettville residents and Kinney County landowners burn whenever it suits them. Thankfully, they are few. Most people are smart enough to know how dangerous this is. But it only takes one fire on the right day to destroy more than just weeds, brush, and a few thousand feet of mesquite fencing. A dry enough day when the winds are just right and a fire like this will be truly devastating.

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