Austin firefighters

Frequently Asked Questions

Fire Building Code

How should fire lane violations be reported?

Report these violations to Emergency Prevention at (512) 974-0153 option 3. A fire inspector will be dispatched to investigate.

What types of structures are governed by the City Fire Code?

All types of structures, except State and Federal buildings, and single-family homes.

Which version of the Fire Code is the City of Austin under right now? When was it adopted?

The City of Austin is using the 2015 edition of the International Fire Code. Please refer to our Fire Marshal’s page for additional information.

Fire Inspections

Are indoor candlelight religious services against any law or ordinance?

The use of open flame in a public assembly requires a permit, candles included, and religious services are considered public assemblies. The requirements for the type of candle are extensive and include fuel, holder, wax, chimney and other specific requirements. The 2003 International Fire Code does make some exceptions though for religious ceremonies. Section 308.3.5 (Religious Ceremonies) states, “When, in the opinion of the Chief, adequate safeguards have been taken, participants in religious ceremonies are allowed to carry hand-held candles. Hand-held candles shall not be passed from one person to another while lit.”

Can Christmas lights in apartment buildings be left up all year?

The 2003 International Fire Code (Section 605.9 Temporary Wiring) requires that decorative lighting be removed after 90 days.

How Do I Schedule an Inspection?

Information concerning the various types of Inspections performed by the Austin Fire Department, including pre-inspection checklists, can be found on our Types of Inspections page. We encourage you to visit this site and review the materials to ensure that you are ready for your inspection, prior to scheduling.

To schedule an inspection, please call (512) 974-0153 option 3 between the hours of 8:00 a.m. – 3 p.m. on M, W-F and 12:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. on Tuesdays.

Is it legal to "burn" in the City of Austin?

Yes, and no. Open burning in the City of Austin requires a permit from the Fire Marshal's Office. Any Open Burning without a permit is prohibited, and may result in a citation. This includes the burning of trash, rubbish, yard clippings, tree trimmings, etc.

Open Burning is defined in the Fire Code as:

“… The burning of materials wherein products of combustion are emitted directly into the ambient air without passing through a stack or chimney from an enclosed chamber. Open burning does not include road flares, smudgepots and similar devices associated with safety or occupational uses typically considered open flames or recreational fires. For the purpose of this definition, a chamber shall be regarded as enclosed when, during the time combustion occurs, only apertures, ducts, stacks, flues or chimneys necessary to provide combustion air and permit the escape of exhaust gas are open.”

Recreational Fires are defined in the Fire Code as:

“An outdoor fire burning materials other than rubbish where the fuel being burned is not contained in an incinerator, outdoor fireplace, barbeque grill or barbeque pit and has a total fuel area of 3 feet (914 mm) or less in diameter and 2 feet (610 mm) or less in height for pleasure, religious, ceremonial, cooking, warmth or similar purposes.”

Requirements for Recreational Ground Fires and Portable Outdoor Fireplaces.

Is the storage of combustible materials allowed in a closet containing an electric water heater?

Yes, but remember, “the storage of combustible materials in a building shall be orderly.” (2003 International Fire Code, Section 315.2, Storage in Buildings)

What are the fire code requirements for draft stops?

The requirements for draft stopping go all the way back to the 1928 Uniform Building Code. Over the decades the size of attic space that required draft stopping has changed. The current requirement of draft stops being required in attics larger than 3,000 square feet was included in the 1970 Code (adopted by the City of Austin on Dec. 21, 1971). Basically, any structure built or remolded since the early 1970s needs to have draft stopping every 3,000 square feet of attic space.

What does AFD do to help stop bars from overcrowding?

The Emergency Prevention Division conducts “Night Inspections” to handle the overcrowding issues at Austin’s bars and nightclubs. The Night Inspection Program consists of teams of inspectors who visit various establishments during the peak hours on weekend nights. They count patrons at the establishments and compare the actual persons present with the legally allowed “occupant load.” They also check items such as exits and lighting for fire code compliance. If the bar exceeds its occupant load, then the management is subject to fines for the violation.

Will AFD inspect a building on request?

Yes, we respond to requests for “walk-throughs” at businesses and requests for Home Safety Inspections. We also respond to complaints at locations with known or suspected fire hazards.

Fireworks Permit

Are any fireworks legal in the City of Austin without a permit?

The U.S. Department of Transportation does not classify the following items listed as common fireworks, and their use is allowed within the City of Austin:

  • Snake, GlowWorms – Pressed pellet of pyrotechnic composition that produces a large, snakelike ash upon burning. The ash expands in length as the pellet burns. These devices may not contain mercuric thiocyanate.
  • Smoke Device – Tube or sphere containing pyrotechnic composition that, upon ignition, produces white or colored smoke as the primary effect.
  • Wire Sparkler – Wire coated with pyrotechnic composition that produces a shower of sparks upon ignition. These items may not contain magnesium and must not exceed 100g of composition per item. Devices containing any chlorate or perchlorate salts may not exceed 5g of composition per item.
  • Trick Noisemaker – Item produces a small report intended to surprise the user. These devices include:
    • Party Popper – Small plastic or paper item containing not more than 16mg of explosive composition that is friction-sensitive. A string protruding from the device is pulled to ignite it, expelling paper streams and producing a small report.
    • Booby Trap – Small tube with string protruding from both ends, similar to a party popper in design. The ends of the string are pulled to ignite the friction-sensitive composition, producing a small report.
    • Snapper – Small, paper-wrapped item containing a minute quantity of explosive composition coated on small bits of sand. When dropped, the device explodes, producing a small report.
    • Trick Match – Kitchen or book match that has been coated with a  small quantity of explosive or pyrotechnic composition. Upon ignition of the match, a small report or a shower of sparks is produced.
    • Cigarette Load – Small wooden peg that has been coated with a small quantity of explosive or pyrotechnic composition. Upon ignition of the match, a small report or a shower of sparks is produced.
    • Auto Burglar Alarm – A tube which contains pyrotechnic composition that produces a loud whistle and/or smoke when ignited. A small quantity of explosive, not exceeding 50mg, also may be used to produce a small report. A squib is used to ignite the device.

**While no permit is required for the devices above, users should follow all of the Manufacturer’s safety, handling, and storage recommendations and these devices should always be used in a safe outdoor location.

What does the City do to enforce the fireworks ordinance?

The City of Austin has adopted an ordinance forbidding the storage, use, and handling of fireworks within the City of Austin.  The Austin Fire Department has aggressively sought compliance with this ordinance.

The Austin Fire Department’s fireworks abatement campaign has evolved over the years. Initially, it consisted of sending an engine and a truck company to all reported fireworks violations. This response was very burdensome on the emergency response system and the 911 dispatchers -- often resulting in removing emergency response apparatus away from their normal areas. In the late 1990s, AFD decided to change its approach.

A fireworks hotline was established for callers to report non-emergency fireworks violations. AFD inspectors and APD officers were available to be dispatched in teams of two each, in an APD marked unit. These units were dispatched from the City’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) staffed City personnel ranging in job responsibilities from call takers, runners, and dispatchers to a Division Chief. This campaign was conducted from 7 p.m. until 2 a.m. on the Fourth of July and in many cases, the days proceeding and following the holiday.

With the advent of the new 311 system, the fireworks abatement campaign has become a more APD-oriented operation. Police department units now are dispatched from the non-emergency line. The call takers no longer are required to staff EOC, and the 911 system no longer is flooded with calls regarding fireworks violations. The Austin Fire Department has a presence on the streets, and the Fire Marshal’s Office still issues citations for violating the fireworks ordinance, and vigorously prosecuted persons responsible for starting fires as a result of fireworks.

What is required to put on a fireworks display?

A permit along with the following is required in order to promote or execute a commercial or consumer firework display within the City of Austin:

  • A site plan of the grounds where the display is to be held must be submitted and approved by AFD Emergency Prevention.
  • A copy of a pyrotechnic operator license issued by a State Fire Marshal’s Office (Commercial only).
  • A list of the fireworks to be used along with an MSDS for each (Commercial Only). Consumer Displays are restricted to ground devices containing 50mg or less of explosive composition and smoke devices classed as explosive 1.4G, firecrackers and small smoke bombs only.
  • A certificate of insurance must be obtained for a minimum of $1,000,000 bodily injury and $500,000 property damage if the display is aerial in nature. Non-aerial displays must have a certificate of insurance for a minimum of $500,000 bodily injury and $300,000 property damage insurance. The City of Austin must be named as co-insured on the policy.
  • A $200 permit fee and permit application form from the Austin Fire Department is required.
  • A public display permit must be obtained from the State Fire Marshal’s Office. (Commercial only).

All information must be submitted for aerial fireworks at least 21 days prior to scheduled event, and for flame effect, open flame performances, etc., at least 14 days prior to scheduled event, for review and approval. The public display must meet all State of Texas requirements as outlined in Article 5.43-4 Insurance Code and Firework rules. This booklet is available from the Texas State Fire Marshal’s Office.

The following expenses are the responsibility of the fireworks contractor or pyrotechnic operator (if required):

  • Apparatus Standby Fee
  • Firewatch Inspector Fee

Actual fee amounts will be determined based on event specifics.

For a fireworks display permit email afdspecialevents@austintexas.gov.

What is the City of Austin ordinance regarding fireworks usage?

It is illegal to use or sell fireworks within the City of Austin.

Prescribed Burn Permitting

Are the conversion resources required to be on-site?

This depends on location and complexity of the burn.  For coordination purposes, the Conversion IC will be on-site and accessible to the Burn Boss, at a minimum.

Can the required number of conversion resources be provided by other departments or agencies?

Yes, if coordinated in advance with the Austin Fire Department and able to fulfill the Conversion staffing plan.

How will the location, current conditions, and other factors be used to determine the number of conversion resources required?

Through the Complexity analysis and pre-planning process.

Is there an expectation that a burn will not be conducted because conversion resources cannot be supplied?

Every effort will be made to support the prescribed burn operation. Although in rare instances, burns may be required to be rescheduled due to extenuating circumstances.

What are the expected roles and responsibilities of the conversion resources prior to a conversion?

Familiartiy wihth the Prescribed Burn Plan, Pre-Incident Plan and ensure effective communication is established and maintained with the Burn Boss throughout the operations.

What are the geographic, environmental, or complexity thresholds fro conversion resource staffing?

Structural exposures, access, water supply, terrain, fuel type and conditions proximity to additional resources and anticipated weather variables.

Who determines the number of conversion resources required for each burn?

The Austin Fire Department will make the recommendations of appropriate resources through the pre-planning process.  The Incident Commander will reserve the right to adjust resources based on day-of burn special considerations or conditions.

Who has the authority to determine if a prescribed fire should be converted to a wildfire?

The conversion of a prescribed fire will be dteremined objectively through the pre-identified Management Action Points, which are communicated in the burn plan and agreed upon during theprescribed burn briefing by the Burn Boss and Incident Commander.

Who is responsible for producing a pre-incident plan?

The Austin Fire Department will develop pre-incident plans and determine appropriate resources necessary to support the pre-incident plan.

When will AFD be accepting applications again?

We anticipate taking applications again during the Spring of 2017. Applications will not be available to fill out until that time. Please continue to visit www.JoinAFD.com for more information.

Where can I find the latest information about joining the Austin Fire Department?

For the latest information regarding applying to the Austin Fire Department, please visit www.JoinAFD.com.  The site includes AFD Recruiting events, news, and application information and requirements.