Cooke County officials took no action Monday on implementing a countywide burn ban after hearing a warning from county fire marshal Ray Fletcher about the ongoing drought conditions.
“It’s wintertime, so fire occurrence will increase to some extent,” Fletcher said.
According to the Keetch-Byram Drought Index, an index the Texas Forest Service uses to measure drought conditions throughout the state, the county’s average was measured at 502.23 on Monday. Northern and southern portions of the county were reported to be as high as 596 and some parts of the county were as low as 411.
The drought index ranges from 0 to 800, according to Texas A&M’s Texas Weather Connection website. A drought index of 0 represents no moisture depletion, and an index of 800 represents “absolutely dry conditions.”
“At this time I would not recommend a burn ban,” Fletcher said. “The public needs to be aware and cautious that they are burning appropriately and monitoring their fires and making sure they have good control of them. As it is wintertime, this is routine that the fuels get dry and cured so, be extra careful out there.”
Even though no action was taken, Cooke County Judge Jason Brinkley said the drought conditions throughout the county need to continue to be monitored, and the option to enact a burn ban should be left on future Cooke County Commissioners Court agendas.
The last time a countywide burn ban went into effect was in 2015. Meteorologist Jason Godwin, with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth, said there is only a slight chance of showers this week.
He said Gainesville has a 30 percent chance on Wednesday night and a 20 percent chance on Thursday.
As of noon Monday, the area had received about a half an inch of rain for the month.
“We are below average so far this month, but we still have a ways to go,” Godwin said.
The average rainfall amount for November is 3.09 inches, according to the NWS.
Last November, 5.47 inches of rain fell on the area, and in 2015, Gainesville received 11.47 inches of precipitation, making it the wettest November on record since record keeping for the area began in 1987, Godwin said.
So far this year, the area has received 31.83 inches of rain. Last year, the total rainfall amount recorded was 48.33 inches, he said.