To burn or not to burn. If this is your question, allow me to try to answer it by going through the laws on public and private burning and the exceptions that are allowed. With the winds that have already been quite prevalent this week, and the upcoming springtime and summer heat, we should all be aware of what is and is not allowed.

Probably the only thing worse than someone intentionally setting a fire to destroy lives, land and personal property is a fire lit with no intent but for individual use that causes the same harmful outcome. Unintentionally set fires cause much more devastation more often than arson.

There are specific laws and guidelines in place for the lawful setting of fires. We need to be aware of both state and local guidelines before even considering a burn of any type. There are many statutes on the books, so I think, for brevity, I’ll form a list, so you can save them for reference. Learn more about each one on this Texas Commission on Environmental Quality website:

Outdoor burning is generally prohibited in Texas. The exceptions are as follows:

  • Firefighter training may be authorized as an excep­tion to the prohibition on outdoor burning.
  • Burning fires outdoors is allowed, but only for recreational/ ceremonial purposes, for noncommercial food preparation, or if it is the only way to keep warm in cold weather.
  • Fires are allowed to dispose of waste or clear land — specifically domestic waste, dead animal carcasses including veterinary services, burning of waste plant growth on the site it is cleared, rural areas with prior permits, agricultural burning (crop waste), local government burning of plant waste.
  • Prescribed burns are allowed to manage land and wildlife.
  • Pipeline breaks and oil spills may be authorized to burn if to protect the public welfare.
  • For any other situations, permission must be requested to TCEQ.

Other considerations to burning are always the general public’s safety, notifying the proper local authorities, consideration of weather conditions as well as neighbors, nearby property, public roadways and airports, waterways and other environmental impacts, public assistance requirements, time of day regulations, certain material restrictions such as electrical, oil products, treated wood, plastics, explosive, toxic and chemical materials.

Finally, if there are alternative ways to dispose of the items that are better alternatives to burning, these should always be considered. These include, but are not restricted to recycling, mechanical shredding/chipping of brush and other natural environmental wastes, composting, using landfills, etc.

Again, please look up the link and read up on all of the explanations, since I couldn’t include them all. Let’s do our part to keep our lives, property, land and wildlife safe from unintentional fire disasters.

Darla Horner Menking is an outdoor enthusiast and Herald correspondent. Contact her at

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