The Wichita County burn ban is here to stay. Wichita County Commissioners discussed the ban Monday morning and decided to take no action, leaving the ban in place indefinitely.
Judge Woody Gossom said the recent rain comes with a catch. He said, "Of course with the rain everyone says that's it. Oddly enough what the departments point out is all that does is increase the amount of vegetation that will grow up and die and it adds to the ground fuel. It's a blessing in one way and it's kind of a curse in the other."
Emergency Management Coordinator Lee Bourgoin said the number of uncontrolled fires has gone down by about 40% since the ban went into effect. He said, "We get some periods of moisture that really helps us out and it actually gives the fire departments a breather, time to regroup, collect some funds, repair trucks and stuff like that."
Commissioner Barry Mahler also noted the relief for local departments. He said, "Our fire departments, volunteers and professionals, are getting a little bit of a break to kind of get regrouped. If we can give them a little more time I think it will help us all in the long run."
With fewer fires to fight, departments are also saving water. Judge Gossom said, "We're already at a water shortage and if you're talking about 20, 30, 40, 50 thousand gallons of water being used, that's something to be concerned about."
Bourgoin said his office and Wichita County fire departments will work with farmers and business owners who rely on some form of fire to do business. He said, "We try to keep it to where it doesn't affect crop productions, peoples income, you know we don't want to affect any of those things. Agricultural type stuff that has an impact on the economy, local economy, and their livelihood, we're gonna work with them any way that we can."
The ban will stay in effect until the Disaster Declaration has been lifted for Wichita County. That declaration does not have an expiration date. Both Gossom and Bourgoin noted past burn bans have stayed in effect into January, it just depends on the weather.