Prescribed fire video from Texas

Above: screen shot from the video.

The Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife has distributed a six-minute video about prescribed fire with an interesting title: The Business of Burning. It is beautifully photographed and is apparently intended to introduce good fire to those who are unfamiliar with the concept.

Some may think the repeated use of the term “grunt” to describe young firefighters is politically incorrect.

Chris Schenck, the department’s Statewide Fire Program Leader, said the video has been in production for a year. Their goal is each year to treat with prescribed fire 30,000 acres of Public Lands Wildlife Management Areas.

Prescribed fire along Rio Grande River

Above: photo of prescribed fire along the Rio Grande River supplied by the National Park Service.

Big Bend National Park in southern Texas conducted a prescribed burn along the Rio Grande River earlier this month in cooperation with Mexico. The objective was to burn out invasive river cane and promote a healthier river ecosystem.

A year ago we wrote about how the park cooperates with Mexico, borrowing their firefighters to assist with wildfires and prescribed fires.

Los Diablos
Screen Grab from The Atlantic’s documentary about a fire crew from Mexico that assists a U.S. National Park.

Burn bans and prescribed fires in Texas

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

***

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.”

Two firefighters injured on prescribed fire in Texas

Borger Fire Department TexasTwo firefighters suffered burn injuries March 9 while working on a prescribed fire in the panhandle of Texas and were airlifted to a hospital. The Borger Fire Department  (map) has confirmed that two of their personnel, fire fighter Clay Lozier and fire chief Bob Watson, were injured transported to Lubbock for treatment.

According to Amarillo.com:

Borger Fire Chief Bob Watson remains in serious condition Saturday at the UMC Timothy J. Harnar Burn Center in Lubbock, according to BFD Lieutenant Stacy Nolen, and Borger firefighter Clay Lozier, who was injured in the same incident, has since been released from the burn unit.

News Channel 10 reports that the prescribed fire on the JA Ranch in Donley County was going well until a juniper tree torched, causing a spot fire. The firefighters almost had that contained when a fire whirl “threw fire 30 yards in every direction”, ranch owner Andrew Bivins said.

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

Three fires in Texas panhandle have burned over 400,000 acres

Above: A map of the northern part of the Texas panhandle shows the three large fires in the area. The dots represent heat detected by satellites, with the red ones being the most recent.

In addition to the wildfires that have burned hundreds of thousands of acres in Kansas and northwestern Oklahoma, firefighters in the northern part of the Texas panhandle have been very busy in the last two days. According to the Texas Forest Service on Tuesday, at least 436,000 acres have burned in three large fires.

texas wildfire
Texas Forest Service

Two homes were destroyed in the 315,135-acre Perryton Fire in Ochiltree, Lipscomb and Hemphill counties. The fast-moving wind-driven fire threatened the towns of Higgins and Glazier.

The Lefors East Fire southeast of Pampa in Gray county burned 92,571 acres.

Just north of Amarillo the Dumas Complex of fires in Potter County was spread by winds gusting over 50 mph to blacken 29,197 acres.

The videos below shows the conditions the firefighters have to occasionally work in.

Continue reading “Three fires in Texas panhandle have burned over 400,000 acres”