Tyler, TX (KYTX) -- The Smith County Fire Marshal's Office is keeping an eye on the drought index number. That's the number that partly determines if a burn ban is needed.
Smith County fire marshals say the county is inching closer every week. Along I20, 5 separate fires burned between Hallsville and Marshall Wednesday afternoon.
It's just one more to add to the list.
"People burn trash and have a burn pile. Then they leave it unattended," Jonathan McClish, Assistant Fire Chief with the Noonday Fire Department, said.
Noonday firefighters are staying busy with grass fires too.
"Stay with your fire, and if you have to leave put it out. And then make sure it's completely out," McClish said.
Fires are becoming more frequent. "To me, the most important criteria we use for burn bans is that the fire departments can't control what they are responding to," Oren Hale, 1st Assistant Smith County Fire Marshal, said.
Hale explains why they're careful before ever recommending a burn ban.
"Construction companies can't clear land and people can't burn their trash. It becomes an economic and health issue," Hale said.
When a burn ban is issued, that means no open flame. People have to put away those fire pits on the patio, which Hale says they don't like doing.
"When we go into a burn ban we have a zero tolerance," Hale said.
The fine for violating a burn ban is up to $500.
As of today, the drought index for Smith County is 598, and Hale says they won't consider recommending a ban until that number is at least 650.