By RANDY GONZALES
The Ellis County Commission declared a state of local disaster emergency for the county at Monday's regular meeting at the Ellis County Courthouse. Commissioners also approved another resolution, which keeps in effect indefinitely the ban on all outside burning in the county.
With the signing of the disaster emergency declaration, all outdoor burning no longer is permitted, effective immediately. This includes trash barrels, fire pits, trash pits, ornamental fire chimneys, fields and any other form of open burning in rural areas of the county.
"With the dry conditions right now, we would like to get a proclamation of a local disaster emergency in Ellis County for burning, followed by a resolution," Ellis County Rural Fire Director Richard Klaus told commissioners.
"I think from what I've seen the last two weeks, and what I saw Saturday night, this is absolutely a preventative measure that needs to be done immediately, and done for an indefinite period of time, to be lifted by county commissioners once we get recommendations," Commissioner Swede Holmgren said.
The disaster resolution, which is effective immediately, will last seven days, unless terminated earlier or extended. It was approved first by the commissioners, who then passed the resolution to keep the burn ban in effect indefinitely.
Dry conditions persist in the county, which during the day Monday was part of a red flag warning, which is issued when there is a critical grassland fire danger. The county also is part of a wind advisory for Tuesday, with winds expected to be 30 to 45 miles per hour and gusting to 55 miles per hour.
Ellis County also had a string of as many as 15 suspicious fires this month. In addition, there were three more fires deemed suspicious Saturday. One grass fire Saturday burned approximately 1,200 acres in northern Ellis County.
Klaus said Sunday the string of fires was taking a toll on both his firefighters and their equipment.
"My guys are getting very tired, equipment's getting run down," he said. "We need to get a break from it."
The fires are under investigation by the State Fire Marshal's office and the Ellis County Sheriff's office.