Authorities crack down on those ignoring fire bans
MONTGOMERY COUNTY, TX The situation is so serious that fire officials are asking everyone to suspend all outdoor burning -- even outdoor barbecuing. Despite their warnings, people are still burning illegally, and firefighters fear it's just a matter of time before one of those controlled burns sparks another massive wildfire. Montgomery County has been under a burn ban, meaning no outdoor burning, since April 11. But between then and now -- less than three months -- fire marshals have written 929 tickets for people setting small fires outdoors. "The problem we're having now during the burn ban is people wanting to burn their leaves and limbs and sticks that come from their own property," Montgomery County Assistant Fire Marshal Scott Burlin said. South Montgomery County Fire Department Chief Robert Hudson says the uptick has been more evident in the last 48 hours after recent rain showers. "People make an assumption that it's good now. Well, it's better, but it's still far from being good," he said. So even though there's a lot green, it's still very dry. Firefighters say the slightest spark could burn all of this instantly. "We have had some buildings destroyed and many buildings damaged that was a result of somebody illegally burning," Burlin said. Rural stations like South Montgomery only have a staff of 10, making it tough to split resources or pull extra shifts to take care of everyday fire emergencies and illegal burns that could be avoided. "It just zaps their energy so then they get another fire when they get back to the station, they have to try to put that fire out or rescue someone, they're not at their best to do that role," Hudson said. In the county, fines can range up to $5,000 for illegal burning and neighbors are calling people out.