Texas Burn Bans (All You Should Know)

You’ve probably heard of the Texas burn ban, but do you know what it entails? Simply, it means you need to think twice before considering the possibility of an outdoor fire in Texas. This is because this fall, the weather is incredibly dry, which might cause the spread of wildfires.

A burn ban is in effect in many counties in Texas due to the increasing drought and slightly high wind speed. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, Eastern counties are the ones more severely affected by drought, which may cause serious problems.

A Partially Burned Tree In The Foreground With New Growth In The Background Three Years After The Bastrop Forest Fire. - Texas View
A Partially Burned Tree In The Foreground With New Growth In The Background Three Years After The Bastrop Forest Fire. - Texas View

What Is the Texas Burn Ban?

Texas burn ban refers to the prohibition of outdoor fires in Texas. These regulations are imposed due to Texas’s severe drought this fall. The government updates information related to this ban weekly.

Facts About Texas 1 - Sports teams
Facts About Texas 1 - Sports teams

The local government in Texas has the right to take action in severe weather conditions such as the drought we have this fall. A county commissioner’s court or judge can enact a burn ban prohibiting outdoor burning for public safety.

How Bad Is the Texas Drought?

The drought is really hard this year. In fact, there have already been some wildfires. For instance, the Texas A&M Forest Service has managed to contain five wildfires for about 47.5 acres across Texas.

Texas has witnessed a huge dry spell this fall. After a short cold period, the weather has become increasingly dry. Now, timber litter fuels are drying up fast, especially in the eastern part of the state.  

On top of that, the increased speed of wind can accelerate the spread of wildfires in East, North, and Central Texas.

Which Counties Are Under the Burn Ban?

Up until now, about 143 counties in Texas are affected by the drought. They’re currently under the burning ban until further notice.

The matter is probably more serious than you think. Here’s a list of wildfires that have already been contained this October:

Fire NameAreaCounty
Leon 5843 Fire11.1 acresLeon County
Cass 5840 Fire1 acreCass County
Shelby 5838 Fire29.1 acresShelby County
Walker 5837 Fire1.5 acresWalker County
Harrison 5841 Fire5 acresHarrison County
A table of all the wildfires contained this month along with the burned area and county.

The Current Level of Wildland Fire Preparedness

This fall, Texas A&M Forest Service raised the level of wildland fire preparedness to Level 2. This is mainly due to the sudden increase in wildfire activity, especially in the eastern part of the state.

The excessive drought we’ve faced recently has accelerated the circulation of dangerously dry air. In addition, this constant dry air and the increased speed of wind help spread wildfire rapidly.

The Stages of Drought Impact

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, drought comes in five different stages:

  • D0: Abnormally dry areas that might be entering or finishing drought spells
  • D1: Moderate
  • D2: Severe
  • D3: Extreme
  • D4: Exceptional

Here are the impacts each stage can have over the area:

D0 – Abnormally Dry

  • Postponing planting
  • An increase in grass fires
  • Reducing the cutting of hay
  • Producers begin supplemental feeding for livestock
  • Forage germination is hindered
  • A decrease in surface water levels

D1 – Moderately Dry

  • Impeding the growth of dryland crops
  • Early cattle sales
  • An increase in the frequency of wildfires
  • Low-stock tanks, creeks, streams
  • Raising the need to request voluntary water restrictions

D2 – Severely Dry

  • No planting due to the hard soils
  • A general decrease in crop yield
  • Wildfires reaching populated areas
  • Compromising hydroelectric power
  • An increase in well-water consumption
  • Poor pasture conditions
  • The implementation of mandatory water restrictions
  • The enactment of burn bans

D3 – Extremely Dry

  • Soil cracks due to the lack of moisture
  • The occurrence of dust or sand storms
  • A high risk of wildfires
  • The need arises for supplemental feed, protein, water, and nutrients for livestock
  • Sharp decline in fish, wildlife, and plants
  • Failure to germinate row or forage crops
  • The decrease in irrigated crops
  • A sharp fall in the yield of dryland crops
  • The culmination of financial burdens in different sectors
  • A noticeable decline in water levels
  • The contamination of water due to the weak flow of rivers

D4 – Exceptionally Dry

  • Excessive loss of crop yields
  • The widespread of algae in water due to the lack of flow
  • Lands become increasingly arid, losing the ability to produce plants
  • An exceptionally high risk of fires
  • Restrictions of simple activities such as barbecues or fireworks
  • A sharp increase in trees’ mortality rate
  • The premature slaughter of livestock due to the shortage of hay and water
  • Significant losses in several sectors such as tourism, agriculture, forestry, and seafood production
  • An incredibly sharp decline in water levels
  • Closing boat ramps

The Texas Burn Ban FAQs

How do we know where and how bad drought is?

This is a task for the U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM), which uses many different tools. Experts at the USDM work with local observers to synthesize and interpret data from various sources, such as

  • Satellite-based assessments of vegetation health
  • The Keetch-Byram Drought Index for fire
  • The Palmer Drought Severity Index
  • The Standardized Precipitation Index
  •  The Surface Water Supply Index

Driving from all these sources makes the USDM a unique tool.

It also monitors the effect of drought on people, industries, and livestock through a great number of observers across the country.

What is considered a violation of the burn ban and how is it punished?

The bottom line is that any form of open fire is a violation if you’re under a burning ban. Here’s a list of activities you can’t do if a burn ban is in effect

  • Burning yard waste like grass or leaves
  • Using fire to clear lands of any form of natural vegetation
  • Burning any combustible material without an enclosure to contain sparks and flames.

If you fail to abide by these rules, you face a Class C Misdemeanor, which can be punished by a fine that reaches up to $500.

References