By Kathi Bliss
An emergency declaration of disaster enacted by Lockhart Mayor Ray Sanders last week was ratified and extended on Thursday evening during a special meeting of the Lockhart City Council.
The Order, which was prompted by a gubernatorial declaration of disaster on all of Texas’ 254 counties, and further necessitated by the extreme, endless drought and excessive fire danger, outlaws a few things – at least for the time being – that seem somewhat commonplace and taken for granted.
Of most particular note, the Order, which some consider a bit over-reaching, prohibits outdoor, open-flame cooking using wood, charcoal or other combustible materials. This provision, according to Lockhart Fire Marshal Clint Browning, does include smokers and barbecue pits, but allows for gas grills.
In addition, the order prohibits smoking in city parks and greenspaces.
Some concern surfaced at the passage of the order, in light of plans by the Greater Caldwell County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce for their Diez y Seis celebration at Lockhart City Park this weekend.
Browning said only two vendors committed to attending the event would have fallen under the prohibited cooking activities, and both of those have agreed to use different methods for their vendor food booths.
There is some question, however, as to how the smoking prohibition will impact crowds at the event, and how law enforcement will handle enforcing the ban.
Under the Order, violation of the provisions, including smoking in a city park or greenspace or outdoor cooking can be prosecuted as a Class C Misdemeanor, and is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000.
Other activities prohibited by the Order include: outdoor welding and/or other outdoor construction or repair activities utilizing open flames, unless prior written approval and a written fire safety plan from the Lockhart Fire Marshal is obtained and ordered; and engaging in any outdoor activity which generates flames or sparks that could reach combustible material, including but not limited to leaves, grass, and brush.
Despite some rumors to the contrary, the Order does not impact the community’s barbecue restaurants, because those cook fires are all contained within the buildings.
Residents wishing to report violations of this order are encouraged to contact the Lockhart Police Department, using the non-emergency dispatch telephone number, (512) 398-4401. Residents are asked to reserve calls to 9-1-1 for emergency fire situations.
To view a copy of the order, click here.