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JBSA News
NEWS | June 17, 2011

South Texas drought prompts area-wide burn ban

By Airman Alexis Siekert 502nd Air Base Wing OL-B Public Affairs

"The ground is parched, the vegetation is dry and one little spark could start a wildfire threatening thousands of acres and endangering lives," James Smith, 902nd Civil Engineer Squadron Randolph Fire Emergency Services fire inspector, said.

This year, temperatures have been abnormally high and rain levels so low, Texas's dry conditions are becoming dangerous. Burn bans and heightened safety measures to prevent fires are being taken on Randolph and surrounding areas.

The burn ban, currently stretching across 202 of 254 Texas counties, has been gaining a lot of publicity, Mr. Smith said.

Every city's judge decides whether or not a burn ban is appropriate, based on the drought index, and enforces different rules and restrictions, he added.

"The best thing to do is to contact your city fire marshal or county fire marshal for specifics in your area and what type of burning, if any, is allowed," Mr. Smith said.

While personal fireworks are always banned on base, a county-wide disaster declaration was signed June 10 prohibiting fireworks sales and use in Bexar County, according to, a statement issued by the Bexar County Commissioners Court.

"The last time we had an all-out ban on fireworks in 2008, the conditions then were not near as bad as they are now," Nelson Wolff, Bexar County judge, said. "We don't like telling a business they can't open, but we also don't want to tell a family, 'Sorry you
lost your home because of fireworks.' We simply can't put commerce above the safety of the community."

A violation of the ban in Bexar county could result in a fine of no more than $1,000.
Officials on Randolph said fireworks aren't the only fire hazard base members need to take seriously.

"The number-one thing we are concerned with, as far as fires are concerned
on base, is the improper disposal of smoking material," Eloy Uresti, 902nd CES Randolph Fire Emergency Services assistant chief fire prevention, said. "Cigarettes and cigars thrown out of car windows are going into storm drains, where dry leaves have piled up due to the drought. There they are smoldering causing smoke to come out of the drains."

On base this year alone, the fire department has responded to no less than four smoking-related fires, he said.

Another safety concern with the dry weather is barbecuing. All grills must have a lid and stay at least 10 feet away from buildings, overhangs and trees, Mr. Smith said. Yet, some
counties do not allow outdoor cooking at this time.

"We just urge everyone to be fire safe this season, not just on base, but at home too," Mr. Smith said. For more information, contact the Randolph Fire Prevention office at 652-8110 or your county fire marshal.