Ellis County commissioners approved a burn ban Jan. 14, after fire investigator Jim Pharr reported the sheriff’s office has dispatched more than 100 grass fires since Jan. 1.

“This morning, the KBDI average was 445 for Ellis County,” Pharr said. “This is below where we would normally consider adopting a burn ban, but, due to the heavy fire load available from the tall winter grass, we have had a tremendous increase in grass fires in Ellis County.”

Commissioners approved a 90-day burn ban on outdoor burning, with Pharr’s recommendation that welders be allowed to continue work under certain conditions.

A Jan. 10 graphic of the Keetch-Byram Drought Index, as displayed on a Texas A&M University-related Web site, showed Ellis County with a mean rating of 442.6, with a high rating of 568 toward its western side and a low rating of 239 toward its eastern border.

On the KBDI scale, fire intensity begins to significantly increase at a rating of 400 to 600.

“Fires will readily burn in all directions, exposing mineral soils in some locations. Larger fuels may burn or smolder for several days, creating possible smoke and control problems,” according to information about the scale.

With a rating of 600 to 800 (the maximum), fires will burn to the mineral soil.

“Stumps will burn to the end of the underground roots and spotting will be a major problem,” according to the information. “Fires will burn though the night and heavier fuels will actively burn and contribute to fire intensity.”

For more information on the county’s KBDI score, visit http://www.tamu.edu/ticc/fire_risk_assessment.htm.

In other business, the commissioners approved an amendment to the county’s animal control ordinance that will allow officers to pick up stray dogs upon which a complaint has been made by a person.

The county also approved the appointment of a subcommittee to discuss and recommend changes pertaining to animal control, with members to be appointed at an upcoming meeting.

E-mail JoAnn at joann@wninews.com