The Austin Fire Department (AFD) supports the use of prescribed burns for forest and range management, ecological restoration, and training purposes where and when appropriate. It can be an effective tool for risk reduction and restoring ecosystem function when conducted by qualified and trained fire management personnel.
Where possible, prescribed burns are used as a cost effective alternative to mechanical and/or hand-clearing of vegetation, methods that are labor intensive and time consuming in meeting management and public safety goals.
Prescribed burns have been identified in the Austin/Travis County Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) and the cohesive strategy as a desirable component of wildfire adaptation for our community
Prescribed Burning Regulations
The Texas Outdoor Burning Rules first prohibits outdoor burning anywhere in Texas, but allows exceptions for specific situations in which burning is necessary or does not pose a threat to the environment. The rules also prescribe conditions that must be met to protect the environment and avoid other adverse impacts when burning is allowed. TCEQ Exception for Prescribed Burn Chapter 111.211
Additionally, the City of Austin has adopted the International Fire Code giving AFD permitting authority for prescribed burns within the Austin City Limits. International Fire Code with local amendments
The City of Austin Fire Department is responsible for issuing permits for all prescribed or controlled burns within the Austin city limits. All requests for such events must be reviewed and approved by the Fire Marshal and or his/her designee (the Austin Fire Department Wildfire Division). Permits are required for each individual prescribed burn, unless otherwise authorized by an AFD Plans Reviewer. Please see Approved Fee Schedule for the relevant fee associated with these types of requests. Plans should be submitted no later than 30 days prior to the burn and may be submitted up to one year in advance.
Prescribed Burn Plans
AFD requires that all prescribed burn applications submitted to include a complete Prescribed Burn Plan (a site-specific implementation document) that meets or exceeds the requirements set forth by the National Wildfire Coordinating Groups (NWCG). This legal document provides the Austin Fire Department wih the information needed to approve the plan. Prescribed burn projects must be implemented in compliance with the written plan, which should include location and size of the proposed burn, the materials expected to be burned, clearance from structures, etc.
AFD's Wildfire Division will work with prospective applicants to navigate the permit process while ensuring public safety remains the highest priority. Conducting prescribed burns in the City of Austin requires that individual(s) who are leading the prescribed burn to show qualification or certification equivalent to NWCG complexity per the prescribed fire plan. Pre incident planning is AFD's responsibility.
On the day of the prescribed burn, AFD will provide a company officer at the site to serve as the Conversion Incident Commander (IC). The Conversion IC will ensure there are adequate conversion resources to meet the complexity of the burn and will coordinate with the Burn Boss on the staging location for conversion resources(if needed). The Conversion IC is authorized to halt burning activities at any time if predetermined safety thresholds are not met. The Conversion IC will coordinate with the Burn Boss in the event that a prescribed burn escapes containment, or becomes a significant potential for threat to life or property.