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Burn bans are back as temperatures rise and rain chances fall. Llano County commissioners voted to instate a ban on July 10, and Burnet County officials followed suit on July 11.

Following a wet spring, the triple-digit-degree summer has scorched green vegetation and increased fire risks, and Llano County officials did not want to delay preventative measures.

“I’d rather turn (the burn ban) on a little too soon than wait until it gets worse,” said County Judge Ron Cunningham before the Commissioners Court’s unanimous vote to instate a burn ban.

Burnet County commissioners unanimously passed their burn ban within seconds of the agenda item being mentioned and without discussion.

Under the Llano County ban, outdoor burning is prohibited with very few exceptions. Violations can result in a Class C misdemeanor with fines of up to $500. A ban can last for as long as 90 days before it is brought before the Commissioners Court for reassessment.

Llano County has not had a burn ban since Feb. 27; Burnet County since November 2022. The Highland Lakes was still getting rain deep into June, but it has been weeks since the area has seen any significant precipitation. Both counties are drying out, according to the Keetch-Byram Drought Index, which indicates that soil moisture is quickly dissipating with the heat. 

The index ranks soil moisture on a scale of 0 to 800, with 0 being completely saturated and 800 being no moisture at all. On June 10, both counties were sub-200 on the scale. By July 1, they had begun to transition into the 400-500 range. As of July 10, portions of Burnet County were in the 500-600 range and Llano County was almost completely within the 400-500 range.

The KBDI scale notes that wildfire intensity will increase, larger fire fuels such as trees could smolder for days, and leaf litter will contribute to fire intensity once conditions reach the 500-600 range. 

Both counties use the KBDI to inform decisions on burn bans and fire risks. Neither has any rain in the forecast in the coming days and both are under heat advisories from the National Weather Service.