Less than one week before July 4, Harris County commissioners unanimously approved a countywide burn ban in unincorporated areas of Harris County during a June 28 meeting.

The ban will remain in effect until the Texas A&M Forest Service determines that drought conditions no longer exist in the county, or after 90 days have passed from the adoption of the ban.

Harris County Judge Linda Hidalgo—who joined the meeting virtually after contracting COVID-19—said that with drought conditions, a lack of rain and lower humidity, the risk for fires is higher than normal.

“Depending on whether we get enough rain, we’ll see if there’s more we can do.” Hidalgo said.

Per Sec. 352.081 of the Harris County Fire Code, the county can implement a burn ban when the Keetch-Byram Drought Index average is 575 or greater. The index ranges from 0-800, with 800 representing absolutely dry conditions. On June 28, Harris County's average KBDI was 681, with some areas in the county reaching a maximum of 738.

Residents may still host backyard cookouts and barbecues but are encouraged to use extreme caution while cooking outdoors, according to a June 28 news release from Harris County Fire Marshal Laurie L. Christensen.

However, the burn ban does not restrict the use of fireworks as the court had until June 15 to adopt an order prohibiting or restricting the use or sale of fireworks, according to Sec. 352.051 of the Texas Local Government Code.

“We need rain between now and July 4, and a lot of it,” Precinct 3 Commissioner Tom Ramsey said. “Things are going to happen on July 4 that are a high potential for problems. I appreciate the fire marshal’s efforts in trying to stay on top of it.”

The fire marshal urged residents to call 911 and notify the local fire department immediately if they see an unattended fire.