The Belton Journal

Bell County Commissioners made the decision to keep the county’s burn ban in place during their regular meeting Monday morning.
County Fire Marshal Chris Mahlstedt provided the commissioners with an update on the latest weather and drought conditions, which have not improved since the burn ban was renewed earlier this month.
The National Weather Service issued another excessive heat warning on Tuesday for portions of central, northern and western Oklahoma and western north Texas as well as parts of Central Texas. The heat warning was in effect from noon to 9 p.m. due to dangerously hot conditions and heat index values up to 110 as well as actual temperatures of 105 degrees Fahrenheit expected.
The National Weather Service also issued a Red Flag Warning for several Central and North Texas counties, in effect from 10 a.m. Tuesday to midnight Wednesday. Winds were expected to blow southwest near 15 mph with gusts of up to 25 mph and relative humidity as low as 14 percent.
A Red Flag Warning means that extreme fire weather conditions are either occurring now or will shortly, with the low humidity, high heat and strong winds, according to the National Weather Service.
Currently, there are 213 counties with burn bans in place, of the state’s 254 total counties, with all of Bell County’s neighboring counties having a burn ban as well.
“We are pretty much covering the entire state in burn bans,” Mahlstedt said.
Bell County’s Keetch-Byram Drought Index range is in the 600 to 700 range, with a portion of the northwestern part of the county in the 700 to 800 range, Mahlstedt said.
The National Weather Service also reported that these high temperatures were expected to last most of the week, with a slight chance of storms on Thursday, with strong wind gusts and frequent lightning.
Mahlstedt said that conditions are getting hotter and drier, and the rain that some residents may have experienced last week was not enough to do any good.
He also said that he didn’t think there’d be many opportunities for more rain in the county over the next few weeks, adding that the highest percentage chance for rain is at 5 percent.
County Judge David Blackburn mentioned to the commissioners that a report on the total grass fires showed 53 fires last week for the period covering July 11 and a total of 154 fires for the month of July so far.
“That continues to be a concern and evidence that it is, to state the obvious, hot and dry,” Blackburn said.
The commissioners renewed the county burn ban earlier this month, effective through August 29, with the commissioners revisiting the status of the burn ban each week. Outdoor burning in unincorporated areas of Bell County remains banned as a result.