CLARIFICATION: The burn ban officially expires at midnight Tuesday, Nov. 8.
By Michael V. Hannigan
The News Staff
ATHENS – Henderson County commissioners have put an end to the seven-month burn ban, but it might be just a temporary reprieve.
Tuesday, Commissioners’ Court allowed the bun ban to lapse, citing growing trash and brush piles and an approaching frost as the main reasons.
The move came despite the Keetch-Byram Drought Index rising to an average of 647 across the county this week. A burn ban is usually initiated when the index reaches 575.
Pct. 2 Commissioner Wade McKinney acknowledged there was a danger in lifting the ban, but said considering a frost could happen by next week — killing all vegetation, making burning even more dangerous — that “there is also a risk in not lifting the ban.”
Pct. 4 Commissioner Ken Geeslin echoed McKinney, saying, “At this point there’s a risk of people burning brush piles and just paying the fine.”
Commissioners were concerned with the mounds of trash and brush that have grown over the past several months. Local agriculture producers have been hit particularly hard and are also dealing with barns filled with feed sacks.
“Please, please watch what you are doing if you are going to burn,” said McKinney.
But although the ban was lifted, commissioners said they will look at the burn ban again next Tuesday and all but one seemed likely to reinstate the ban if there is no change to the drought index.
“I don’t think we can drift away (from using the index) without telling the county that it didn’t mean anything all along,” said Pct. 1 Commissioner Joe Hall.
The one exception is Pct. 3 Commissioner Ronny Lawrence, who has been pushing to have the ban lifted for three weeks. Tuesday he said, “I still don’t agree with that Keechy-Byram (sic) report.”
The rest of the commissioners were more cautious.
“If the wind is blowing, keep the match in your pocket,” said Geeslin.