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Amid tense exchange, Brown County Commissioners approve burn ban

Brown County Commissioners unanimously agreed on an emergency order to implement a burn ban, but two of them openly disagreed on a proposal to grant people exceptions.

Commissioners met Monday in a special meeting to address the recent rash of fires. According to data provided to KTXS by the Brownwood Fire Department, their firefighters have responded to 15 fires since Jan. 11, with the majority of them caused by controlled burns getting out of control.

Brownwood Fire Marshal Buddy Preston said seven of those 15 fires were structure fires, but four of them started out as just grass fires.

Early Fire Marshal Seth Ringler spoke before the commissioners and he asked them to introduce a system where fire agencies inspect a property prior to commissioners giving that person special permission to burn during a ban.

"Before you approve that ban, let us go look," Ringler said.

However, Commissioner Joel Kelton of Precinct 2 said this may negatively impact people who do agricultural burns.

"We don't want to limit someone's livelihood and say, 'well you can't burn just cause,'" Kelton said. "If they can do it safely, we need to allow them to do it."

But Ringler disagreed and said it could pose a public safety risk.

"How is it safe to burn when the conditions are unsafe to begin with?" Ringler said.

Commissioner Gary Worley said he's for Ringler's proposal.

"Someone needs to go out and look because we're at the mercy of whoever calls in," Worley said.

But during this agenda item, Worley and Kelton got into a personal disagreement in open court.

"Joel, I've got the floor right now, I think," Worley said.

"Well, we're all talking, thank you very much," Kelton said in response.

"That's right, but I'm talking. I've got the floor."

"You've got the floor," Judge Ray West told Worley.

"Judge, thank you."

After the commissioners' meeting ended, Worley apologized for losing his cool during the meeting.

Brown County Commissioners did not take action on Ringler's proposal and Judge West said he'd like to think it over.

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