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Reducing the threat of catastrophic wildfires

May 8, 2018 - Amendments and new rules enhance safety
photo of person with gloves holding a lighted torch canister marked flammable liquid

In late April, the EPA approved new rules for the State of Texas’ Clean-Air Plan for Prescribed Burning to improve safety.

The Texas Forestry Association submitted a petition to the TCEQ requesting the commission amend TCEQ rules that provide requirements for prescribed burning conducted by Certified and Insured Prescribed Burn Managers, who are certified by the Texas Department of Agriculture Exit the TCEQ.

These changes provide requirements specific to prescribed burns conducted by these certified professionals, although general TCEQ rules apply to all prescribed burns.

The approved amendments Exit the TCEQ improve clarity and consistency of requirements to standardize the language used by various agencies involved in emergency response. These revised rules help protect the environment by reducing risks for future wildfires, especially during times of drought.

Prescribed burns conducted under the direction of a CPBM are subject to the following requirements: 

  • Burns must be outside the corporate limits of a city or town
  • Burning will start only when wind direction and other weather conditions do not cause smoke and other pollutants to affect public roads, landing strips, water ways or sites containing sensitive receptors like air monitors
  • Burning will be conducted no earlier than sunrise and be completed on the same day before sunset with a trained responsible party at the site at all times
  • Fires must be extinguished and not cause a nuisance or traffic hazard
  • Burning shall only take place if the wind is between 5 and 23 miles per hour
  • Burning shall not be conducted during periods of low-level temperature inversions
  • Electrical insulation, treated lumber, plastics, non-wood construction/demolition materials, heavy oils, asphalt materials, potential explosive material, chemical waste and items that contain natural or synthetic rubber must not be burned

Prescribed burning reduces the available fuel for a potential wild fire, thereby decreasing the incidence, intensity, and spread of fires and the associated damage to human health and property.

There are other situations where prescribed burning is allowable and does not require a CPBM. These burns must meet the requirements of 30 TAC §111.219. However, professionally managed burns are safer, more cost effective, and better for air quality in Texas.

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