Grass Fires Cause Houston Mayor to Consider Smoking Ban

by on December 22nd, 2014
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A grass fire broke out in West Houston in the afternoon of September 13th, giving many people quite a scare on their way home from work. I was taking a bus home around 3 pm at Bellaire Blvd. and Dairy Ashford when we saw the smoke. At first, we thought there was a fire in the apartments across the street. Then we got on the bus, and started riding north on Dairy Ashford but the fire was actually about 5 miles away, over in George Bush Park behind Highway 6 and Westheimer.

Firefighters worked through the night to contain the blaze and were able to get it under control. The Houston Fire Department said it also had to respond to 8 grass fires on Wednesday, September 14, right around Houston.

Mayor Annise Parker acknowledged the crisis conditions brought on by the worst drought Houston has seen in decades. She indicated that she is considering a temporary ban on smoking in city parks. “We’re actually discussing whether we need to do that, said Parker, pointing out: “… there is already a ban on littering so anybody who throws a cigarette butt down in a park is violating the law.”

The mayor wants Houstonians to understand why it may become necessary to take this step, but she also called for “voluntary compliance” and indicated that the smoking ban would only last as long as the drought.

That may be longer than some people think. The Houston Chronicle recently reported that state reservoirs were at 68 percent of their capacity but Houston has been hit even harder with reservoir capacity of 64 percent.

A forecast from the Federal Climate Prediction Center, predicting the probable return of La Niña conditions in the equatorial Pacific Ocean this winter, has done nothing to allay anyone’s fears. In fact, state climatologist and Texas A&M University professor John Nielsen-Gammon believes next summer may be worse than this one: “I’ve started telling anyone who’s interested that it’s likely much of Texas will still be in severe drought this time next summer, with water supply implications even worse than those we are now experiencing,” he said.

Nielson-Gammon also says that the current drought is worse than the 1950s drought that lasted from 1950 to 1956.

“Compared to the 1950s,” he said, “this single year is so intense that it might count for two or three years of the 1950s drought.”

Mayor Parker asked Houstonians to curtail water use in June but ended up mandating lawn watering restrictions on lawn watering in August and just last week, she issued a ban on open flames in city parks, outlawing barbecuing on 39,000 of acres of public land.

The question is, why wait with the smoking ban? If people wouldn’t listen about watering their lawns, what makes Mayor Parker she’ll get “voluntary compliance” now?

What do you think? Should she just institute the smoking ban and should she make it permanent?

Sources: Embedded


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