Fire Officials Urge Commissioners Against Modifying the Burn Ban

by Victor Lopez
NewsWest 9

ECTOR COUNTY--The fight is all over allowing people to burn their trash.

But as West Odessa Fire Marshal Jimmy Ellis told NewsWest 9, no grass fire is worth putting anyone's life in danger, and certainly not one of his men. "One slip with my people ahead of a fire, and you could kill one of my firemen.  I'm not going to kill any of my firemen for a grass fire."

When it comes to safety, the fire marshal for the City of Odessa, is in complete agreement.  Detra White says, "We care very much about what happens in the county, not only for those citizens, but for our employees responding, and for the volunteer units responding.  It becomes an extreme safety issue for us."

It's grass fires like the one this afternoon in Odessa, the one this past weekend in Snyder, and the one two weeks ago in Midland, that keep Jimmy Ellis firm in his belief that keeping the burn ban in effect in Ector County, is their best line of defense against them.  He commented, "The grass fires, they're getting way out of hand even with the ban in place.  If they were to have lifted that ban, there's no way we could keep up."

That's why, it was so important, not only to him but all fire officials, that the burn ban not be amended or lifted in any way, especially when it comes to burning trash outdoors, something that in his opinion, can have serious consequences. "If we give these people a license to burn, we're asking for a disaster that we can't, we'll never stop.  There's no way."

Fire officials are glad County Commissioners decided not to take any action on the burn ban.

Detra White went on to say, "On the prevention side of it, I feel very strongly that the citizens of this community look toward their leaders for advice on what's a safe practice.  If we lift the ban or portions of the ban, we are indicating to them that it's safe to do so and right now, it's just not safe to have outdoor burning. "

Firefighters in the city and in West Odessa, work jointly on occasion.   The types of grass fires we've seen recently, take their toll on equipment and firefighters alike.  White says, "If we are  having to respond and use numerous personnel in the county, it takes away from what we provide to our citizens inside the city limits.  So it does become a more pressing issue."

Ellis' comment was, "With what we have, our resources are stretched.  I'm a volunteer department.  Most of my fire trucks are tired and on the verge of being worn out."

Ellis Went on to say that so far, we've been lucky,  "Grass grows back.  We've been lucky.  All our stuff has been in grasslands away from the population."

Regardless of where you are, Detra White wants to emphasize that the thing to remember is saftey first, "We need to take those extra steps on the prevention side and start eliminating those causes that we know can and will start fires and that we know can be prevented."

While there are no current restrictions for welders or Bar-B-Que pits, White recommends people use saftey precautions while involved in either activity.

And remember, if you are caught violating the burn ban, whether inside the city or out in the county, expect to get a ticket.