County bans outdoor burningA record drought in Texas last year contributed to a historic number of wildfires in the state that burned more than four million acres of land, destroyed more than 3,000 homes and devastated massive acreage of farmland and forests.While rain last winter and in early spring brought some relief, dry conditions continued. More than 6,200 wildfires burned in the state during the first eight months of this year, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.Some fires are acts of God; others are man-made, exacerbated by forces of nature. But to protect both lives and property, individuals have a responsibility to help prevent fires and mitigate their destruction.With 94 percent of the state abnormally dry, 55 percent in severe drought and 25 percent in extreme drought, huge areas of Texas, including Tarrant County, are ripe for fires. That is why Tarrant County Commissioner's Court on Tuesday approved an outdoor burning ban to last for 90 days.Tarrant County Fire Marshal Randy Renois said the county "is under imminent threat of severe damage, injury or loss of life or property" due to dry conditions and gusty winds. He emphasized that all outdoor burning is prohibited, and violations of the court's order is a class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $500.Rural residents are advised to keep a 30-foot area mowed around homes and out-buildings to keep fire from reaching those structures.Outdoor cooking and welding aren't prohibited, but the fire marshal has issued safety guidelines for both activities. They're available at bit.ly/QNCiV8 or go to www.tarrantcounty.com and click on the Burn Ban link.Arlington's bet on Cowboys pays offWhen Arlington city officials and voters placed their bet on Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys in 2004, there were some residents who believed the city had been suckered by an out-of-town high-rolling shark.After all, the city of Dallas -- the football team's namesake and original home before it moved to Texas Stadium in Irving -- folded its hand early. Dallas County was never in a position to even bluff. And Irving realized quickly it couldn't afford to be in the game.Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck convinced the council and a majority of voters that it would be wise to invest receipts from a half-cent sales tax, 2 percent hotel occupancy tax and 5 percent car rental tax to pay for the city's half of a proposed $650 million stadium that would make "America's Team" Arlington's.One of the smartest things the city did was to cap its investment at $325 million, because the total cost of Cowboys Stadium ended up being $1.15 billion.Cluck vowed that the city would be able pay off its 30-year bonded indebtedness early, as happened with Rangers Ballpark at Arlington. And Cowboys owner Jones insisted the stadium would be more than just a venue for home pro football games. Cowboys Stadium has hosted a Super Bowl (Dallas wasn't a participant) and a host of other events: the NBA All-Star Game, high-profile high school and college games, concerts, championship boxing matches, soccer and even bowling. The NCAA men's Final Four basketball games are coming in 2014.Those have helped attract thousands of new visitors -- and their sales tax payments -- to the city.With record sales tax revenue, Arlington is on pace to pay off its bonds at least a decade earlier than the 2034 due date, saving at least $64.5 million in interest, according to a Sunday news story by Star-Telegram reporter Susan Schrock. Since 2006, the city has paid $166 million ($60.5 million in principal) toward the debt. It was a good bet after all.