SAN ANTONIO – In an emergency meeting Thursday morning, Bexar County commissioners approved a 90-day burn ban.
The ban prohibits bonfires, camp fires and outdoor burning of trash that’s not in a metal container.
Metal fire pits are barbeque grills are allowed to be used under the burn ban.
And at least for now, county commissioners are allowing fireworks for New Year’s Eve.
Bexar County Fire Marshal Craig Roberts asked commissioners for the burn ban after weather conditions changed dramatically this past week.
It’s cold, it’s windy and we’ve had very little rain. That’s why on Christmas Day a brush fire consumed 400 acres of farmland in northeast Bexar County.
"We come prepared to work under the direst conditions,” Shawn Griffin with the San Antonio Fire Department said while fighting that fire Tuesday afternoon.
And this week, the direst conditions included two red flag warnings that had firefighters working around the clock.
"All it takes is one little ember and we're going to be right back doing the same thing all night,” Griffin said Tuesday.
Lt. Roberts explained why the cold snap is making the grass heat up.
"When the vegetation goes dormant, like this, after a cold, hard freeze, the vegetation is more susceptible to being ignited,” he said.
Then add in the drought index: it’s up nearly 40 points in a week.
“It means that the vegetation has dried out very quickly,” Lt. Roberts said.
He said that’s why he asked for the burn ban and county commissioners said yes.
One trash fire – even one cigarette – can flare up and quickly lose control, Lt. Roberts said.
"Once you start getting a running fire it consumes a lot of land very quickly,” he said.
The burn ban does not include fireworks, but as a precaution, Alamo Fireworks voluntarily pulled finned missiles and stick rockets from shelves and is encouraging other distributors to follow suit. Those types of fireworks still have embers burning when they hit the ground.
The county still has time to ban fireworks before New Year’s Eve if weather conditions get worse. Lt. Roberts says not even the National Weather Service can give him predictions on wind speed that night.