Burn bans and prescribed fires in Texas

Texas prescribed fire

Above: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department personnel who had been mobilized to conduct prescribed fires at the Matador Wildlife Management Area (map) reconfigured as a Strike Team of Type 6 engines after a series of very large wildfires broke out in the Texas panhandle. Photo by TPWD. 

On March 12 we wrote about the two Borger Fire Department firefighters who suffered burn injuries while working on a prescribed fire in the panhandle of Texas. One was seriously injured and the other was treated at a hospital and released.

Chris M. Schenck, the Statewide Fire Program Leader in the Wildlife Division of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department contacted us to clarify information about prescribed fire and burn bans in the state.

Here is a glossary of the acronyms used:

  • Rx: prescribed (fire)
  • TPWD: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
  • CIPBM: Certified Insured Prescribed Burn Managers
  • NWCG: National Wildfire Coordinating Group
  • TCEQ: Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ
  • NPS: National Park Service
  • DOD: Department of Defense

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By Chris M. Schenck

“Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) stood down our Rx Fire plans last week, though we were in prescription and had all contingency resources on location.  In fact we stood in the gap for  already committed Texas Forest Service resources.

Your comment:

“There was a burn ban in effect in Donley County but Texas law exempts prescribed fires from burn bans.”

Is correct, but may be a little simplified.  Here is link to the actual Texas State Statute.

Section D sec 352.081 (f.) [1.] & [2.] provide a little  clarification on Burn Bans and Rx Burning.

Essentially, only Certified Insured Prescribed Burn Managers (CIPBM) and Prescribed Burn Associations  may burn during a burn ban.

The State recognizes NWCG Burn Bosses as the equivalent of CIPBM as well.  Most of the time in my agency we are coordinating with the County Court of Commissioners  for a long time prior to burning.

State burning laws in Texas as in other states are fairly complex and a little tricky to follow.  Ray Hinnant a long CIPBM instructor wrote an article that is pretty helpful in understanding the rules.

In fact one of the first laws in  the Republic of Texas  shortly after 1845 prohibited “the burning of grass”.  This is still  essentially the case, then they go on to make exceptions.  Here is a link to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) regulations.

We have a very fragile balance in prescribed burning here in Texas as we are a 98% private lands state.

The events of last week often set back programs, public perception and spawn legislation.

TPWD is the third largest land manager behind (your former employer) NPS and the DOD. Burning on public lands is very significant  for habitat restoration and resiliency.

We have a great opportunity in Texas to “Rekindle the Fire Culture” and get more appropriate and responsible Rx Fire on the land.

TPWD Wildlife Division, has the privilege of providing Technical Guidance to Land Owners for Rx Fire and other land management activities.  Here is a link to our fire page.”

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, Bill Gabbert now writes about it from the Black Hills.

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