Clay County Commissioners enacted a burn ban Monday, but not with a unanimous vote.
The issue was raised after area fire fighters spent all of Friday battling a 500-acre blaze east of Jolly.
A motion to enact the burn ban was made by Precinct 3 Commissioner John McGregor, who also serves on the Arrowhead Ranch Estates VFD. While discussing the possibility of a burn ban, it was noted that the Keech Byram Drought Index average for Clay County, used in determining the need for burn bans, is at 545. Although counties can enact a burn ban at any time, the threshold for enacting a ban is 575.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Lindy Choate, who cast the lone “no” vote, asked if any recent grass fires could have been prevented by having a burn ban in place. County Judge Kenneth Liggett said they would not have been prevented with the exception of the fires caused by fireworks.
Choate said he would only be in favor of a burn ban when the KBDI reached 575.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Johnny Gee took issue with the burn ban as presented by McGregor, which banned outdoor welding during a red flag warning.
“I’m not going to vote for anything that takes away a man’s livelihood,” said Gee.
The wording was removed from the ban, although guidelines do require welders to have a spotter and a sprayer with 100 gallons of water on hand.
Agricultural burning will be allowed, but requires a 60-foot fireguard to be plowed or cleared around the perimeter of the burn area. The landowner must notify the sheriff’s office of plans to conduct a controlled burn and one fire truck must be on scene during the burn. Winds must be no more than 20 miles per hour.
The burn ban also allows for outdoor cooking if the grill or cooker has a covered top and is located in an area free of vegetation.
A violation of the burn ban is a class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500.
The burn ban is in effect through Aug. 13, at which time commissioners will chose whether or not to extend the ban.