County, city implement burn bans

“The burn ban goes into effect today.”
Gladewater Fire Chief Mike Simmons was ready for the question first thing Monday morning – between runaway temperatures and too many dry days, the only thing he was waiting for was official word from the Gregg County officials on blanket restrictions.
Gregg County and Gladewater join a slew of other locales stepping up for the cease-fire: Nacogdoches County’s ban went into effect July 25 for 90 days. Rusk County and Panola County followed suit July 27, Smith County enacted a ban Aug. 1 then both Upshur County and the City of Big Sandy instituted restrictions Aug. 4.
As of Monday’s regular commissioners court session, the prohibitions are in place: following the elected officials’ vote, a 90-day burn ban is in effect for the unincorporated areas of Gregg County. Violations of the ban are a class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500.
Gladewater Fire Department echoed the fire prevention measure throughout the city limits – including tamping down the city’s ongoing burn of tree debris.
“Due primarily to weather conditions as well as burn bans, there will be no burning inside the city limits and no permits will be issued until further notice,” Simmons announced.
City of Gladewater public works employees and firefighters spent a good portion of last week carefully burning green debris from the June 16 storm, tending (and regularly hosing down) a burn pit on Commerce Avenue with permission from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
Not anymore.
“Due to Gregg County going under a burn ban, the city has paused the controlled burn efforts to clean up the storm debris,” Simmons said. “All debris will be collected and stored until the ban is lifted, then we will continue all burn operations.”
Tree debris collection will continue in the interim – City Hall recently brought in an outside contractor to take on the effort, freeing public works employees to focus on other immediate tasks.
“Asplundh is working on that and started today,” city manager Charlie Smith reported Aug. 4. “I think it’s going to turn into a little more than what they thought it would be. They’ll probably work through this week then be back next week.”
With the contractor tackling the project on an hourly basis, Smith anticipated about two weeks’ work to wrap up the collection effort throughout the community.
City workers will continue to collect the debris at the Commerce pile until drought conditions abate and the county’s burn ban is rescinded or expires.
The dry weather’s having an impact on other city processes as well – drought conditions can put a strain on underground pipes, and public works employees are trying to keep things flowing.
“With the dry weather, your ground changes,” Smith said. “We may experience a lot more infrastructure issues than what we have in the past just because the ground shifts once the moisture’s gone from it.
“The guys are working on that as hard and fast as they can. They’ve got several leaks they’ve been working on.”

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