Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr.

Alice-Echo News Journal

With half of Jim Wells County indexed at an extreme drought stage, Jim Wells County Commissioners unanimously renewed a complete burn ban Monday morning.

According to Keetch Byram Drought Index numbers provided by the Texas Forest Service, the Premont and Ben Bolt/Palito Blanco areas are at a 700-800 index score, the highest level of the drought scale. The other half of Jim Wells County is in the 600-700 range, which is still considered within drought levels.

Jim Wells County Safety Officer Israel Lopez said rain is desperately needed throughout the county. It has been more than five months, officials said, since the county has seen significant rainfall. Fire Chief Dean Van Nest said the Alice Afire Department has seen a 34 percent increase in the number of fires so far this year, compared to the same time in 2007.