|Polk County Enterprise - Local News
Stories Added - July 2009
Copyright 2008 - Polk County Publishing Company
Man seriously injured while burning debris, despite ban
Polk County Enterprise - July 2009
LIVINGSTON – An unidentified Wiggins Village #1 resident was severely injured Wednesday while burning debris in violation of the county-wide burn ban. Authorities said he had a small trash fire burning and may have had an accelerant on it. His clothing and a large percentage of his body was burned during the incident. A neighbor heard the victim screaming and a passing motorist saw the victim on fire and drove to a neighbor’s house to alert authorities. The man has had a medical history of seizures, according to one of the emergency responders. When help arrived he was unresponsive.
He suffered burns over 80 percent of his body and was taken to Memorial Medical Center- Livingston where his condition was unknown at press time The man was so seriously burned a Livingston firefighter drove the ambulance to the hospital so both paramedics could treat him on the way to the hospital. Drought not ending yet The rain in the area during the past week hasn’t done much to pull us out of the drought we are in. Some areas of the county received several inches of rain but that amount has done little to change the fuel-moisture ratio. The rains were spotty so some areas are still just as dry as they have been. The Texas Forest Service (TFS) is closely monitoring the drought conditions.
The little rain we did get was a welcome site after a long dry spell, but much more is needed to really make an impact. “It’s greened some stuff up,” TFS Regional Fire Coordinator Ricky Holbrook said. “We were so dry, though, the fuel-moisture ratio is not back where it needs to be.” Holbrook said he is still seeing lightning-strike fires. Lightning strikes on the ground are common in this area, but they do not generally cause a forest fire because the moisture and humidity typically stay high. The Forest Service uses the Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) to determine forest-fire potential. This began in 1989 and is a tool to allow firefighters to be aware of conditions on the ground and to get prepared for an emergency situation before it happens. The KBDI ranges from 0 to 800, where a drought index of 0 represents no moisture depletion, and an index of 800 represents absolutely dry conditions.
In response to these dry conditions most East Texas counties have implemented a burn ban. Holbrook said the TFS, in partnership with the Louisiana Forest Service, has brought in additional firefighters from Louisiana to assist with fires as they pop up. Additional equipment is also being pre-positioned to this area to assist with fire-fighting efforts. “We have brought in a Type 1 helicopter to use for water drops,” Holbrook said. “It is stationed in Huntsville. The U.S. Forest Service has also stationed one in the Lufkin area.” One of the biggest problems for local firefighters and peace officers is from weekenders who come to the area unaware of the burn ban and the potential for a catastrophic fire. If you have a neighbor who is burning, make him or her aware of the situation and if that doesn’t resolve the matter call the authorities.
On June 19, Gov. Rick Perry signed legislation that will significantly change the way a number of Texans dispose of things they no longer want or need. Beginning Sept. 1, the Texas Clean Air Act will allow the outdoor burning of vegetative matter consisting of trees, brush, grass, leaves, branch trimmings, or other plant growth on the property on which it was generated and by the owner of the property or any other person authorized by the owner. Burning of household solid waste, clothing, cardboard boxes, etc., will be a Class C misdemeanor with a fine up to $500. If the violation is a second or subsequent violation, the charge will be a Class B misdemeanor with a fine up to $1,500 and/or 180 days in a correctional facility. If the violation involves the burning of tires, insulation on electrical wire or cable, treated lumber, plastics, non-wood construction or demolition materials, heavy oils, asphaltic materials such as shingles, potentially explosive materials such as aerosol cans, furniture, carpet, chemical wastes, or items containing natural or synthetic rubber the charge will be a Class A misdemeanor with a fine of $4,000 and/or one year in a correctional facility.
The following precautions can help prepare your home and lessen the damage to your property in the event of a wildfire. 1. Propane (LPG) tanks should be far enough away from buildings for valves to be shut off in case of a wildfire. Keep the area around the tank clear of flammable vegetation. 2. Store gasoline in an approved safety can away from buildings. 3. All combustibles, such as firewood, wooden picnic tables, boats, stacked lumber, etc. should be kept away from structures. 4. Clear roof surfaces and gutters regularly to avoid build-up of flammable materials such as leaves and other debris. 5. Remove branches from trees to a height of 15 feet or more. 6. In rural areas, clear a fuel break of at least three times the fuel length around all structures. 7. Keep tools, such as a ladder long enough to reach your roof, shovel, rake and buckets for water, nearby. 8. Place connected garden hoses at all sides of your home for emergency use. 9. Make sure your family has an emergency evacuation plan. 10. Know all emergency exits from your neighborhood.