Prescribed Burn Checklist
This is a checklist of items to consider when planning, conducting, or contracting a prescribed burn.
Understand Texas Fire Laws
Texas Prescribed Fire Law
Before conducting a prescribed burn, the person in charge of the burn must be familiar with laws and regulations governing a prescribed burn. CBPBA Burn Schools are a good place to learn about these laws and regulations. Generally, fires cannot be started earlier than 1 hour after sunrise and must be completed 1 hour before sunset.
Smoke management is a must in any prescribed burn; smoke may not cause a hazard to any public road, landing strip, navigable water, or sensitive receptors (houses, animal confinement, hospital, etc. If smoke will be a hazard on a public roadway, flagmen must be posted on the roadway to control traffic.
If gulf cord grass is in the burn unit, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality must be notified 15 days prior to the burn and written permission from the TCEQ must be obtained prior to the burn.
Measured wind speed at the burn site must be at least 6 miles per hour and not greater than 23 miles per hour (not advisable) while the burn is being conducted.
The responsible party (fire boss) must be present while burn is active.
You may also want to check the following web sites:
Texas Prescribed Burn Board
Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ)
Download TCEQ Publication“Outdoor Burning in Texas" PDF file.
Monitor Burn Bans
It is illegal to conduct any burning in a county where a burn ban has been issued without the written permission of the county judge. Be responsible, respect burn bans. You will need a properly completed burn plan before a county judge will consider granting any exemptions.
You may find the Texas Burn Ban Map handy.
Attend a CBPBA Burn School and Burn
CBPBA conducts at least one burn school and one demonstration burn each year, and often two. You should attend at least one of these schools prior to attempting a prescribed burn. In addition, CBPBA recommends that you participate in at least a couple of burns for others before you attempt one of your own. There are a great number of things you need to learn and experience before burning on your own. You are personally liable for any damage resulting from a burn you conduct. CBPBA usually conducts demonstration burns on member ranches. You should contact a CBPBA official if you are interested in allowing your property to be used for this purpose. You are responsible for all site preparation (fire guards) and we try to rotate the demonstrations throughout our 12 county area.
Clarify Burn Objectives
Before conducting a prescribed burn, management goals and objectives should be determined. Objectives should be what you can achieve in a single burn. Many objectives relate to management goals which may be the end product of a year, season, or weekend. Objectives do not have to be complicated. Use simple objectives to clarify what a “good burn” is and what it is not. For example, the objective may be to remove excess amounts of decadent forage so that new grasses and weeds can come into the plant community. Objectives can also help determine what conditions may be needed or avoided to work towards those goals. Understand that one burn does not usually achieve all the management goals.
Write a Burn Plan
You can download the CBPBA Prescribed Burn Plan Form free. Other, equally good examples exist elsewhere. Writing a burn plan is a step-by-step procedure needed before burning to remind you of all the things to consider, and to provide a place where important phone numbers and maps can be organized. This Sample Burn Plan includes the permit issued for it during a burn ban.
Implement Burn Plan Steps
Construct Fire Guards
Fire guards are physical barriers that will prevent the fire from escaping from the area to be burned and typically are an existing road, bladed areas, disked areas, etc. that are wide enough to contain the fire. Fire guards must be all around the perimeter of the area to be burned. In brushy areas a 12 to 25 foot wide area may be sufficient while in grassy areas a combination mowed strip of 15 to 25 feet with 8 to 10 feet of bare soil outside the mowed area would be required. Fire guards or fire breaks may be constructed with bulldozers or motor graders which make excellent fire breaks; a heavy offset disk may also be used but several passes with the disk will be required to totally remove the grassy material and provide a bare soil firebreak. The soil moved while constructing the fire break should be moved to the outside edge of the burn unit to prevent holdover fires that occur when grass and debris buried in the disturbed soil ignite and smolder for days after the burn is completed. Brush removed from the fire break should either be moved outside the burn unit where it will not ignite or should be pushed well inside the area to be burned. Brush piles should be a minimum of 150-200 feet away from the edge of the fire break when pushed to the inside of the burn unit.
These do not have to be sophisticated, but a rendering of your burn unit should be passed out to everyone helping on the burn. Important points like houses, burn unit corners, and water supplies should be labeled so everyone is aware of significant progress or potential trouble spots. Google Maps provides map-making options, and there are several commercial products out there to choose from if you like. However, an accurate drawing can work just as well.
Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)
PPE is required for agency professionals and should be considered by landowners who intend to conduct burns themselves. A list of items can be found in the paragraph below. Some of these items are available as rental equipment either with the CBPBA Burn Trailer or the Nature Conservancy Landowner Caches - check our Rental Burn Equipment section for details. Most forestry supply catalogs carry prescribed fire equipment. Check our Links section for possible sources.
A word of caution: ATV's and Utility Vehicles, normally used to transport people and equipment around burn site, are often constructed of plastic components that melt or burn easily if allowed to get to close to the heat of a fire. Use extreme caution when operating these vehicles around a burn site, sitting on a seat that has melted is dangerous and unpleasant - ask me how I know! In addition, melting a gasoline fueled vehicle can result in an explosion.
- Mobile water-delivery source of at least 50-100 gallons
- Radios (Preferably one for each participant)
- Protective clothing (preferably Nomex, but absolutely no synthetic material, it can melt onto your skin!)
- First aid kit
- Weather kit
- Fire shelters with belt
- Hand tools (rakes, flappers, axe, hoe, water sprayers)
- Drip torches (2)
- 5 gallons of reserve drip torch fuel (3:1 diesel to gasoline)
- ATV’s staged with water sprayers and/or hand tools
- Chainsaw with appropriate protective equipment
- Also consider leather gloves, hardhats, goggles, leather boots
Identify All Potential Hazards
Anything within the area to be burned that could be dangerous for those conducting the burn should be considered. This includes major hazards like propane tanks or simple hazards like snakes or the heat, or over head power lines. These should be explained to everyone participating on the burn, so they everyone can be made aware and put on their guard.
Anticipate Your Fire Behavior
Especially if you have little to no experience with prescribed fire, you should make yourself aware of potential height of the flames, the speed at which they will move against and with the wind, and the amount of heat that could be generated. Complicated programs may be found and downloaded from the Fire.org website. A paper calculation can be found at the National Wildfire Coordinating Group website. Neither method is particularly easy, and most of the calculations are designed to predict how a wildfire could behave in the conditions you enter, but they can help you model what conditions you should and should not have to meet your management goals. If you want to conduct your own prescribed fires, a good article to download/read is Fire Prescriptions for Maintenance and Restoration of Native Plant Communities. It was written with Oklahoma in mind, but proves very helpful in understanding how fire may behave during most conditions. Experience, however, provides the most valuable information. Start small, and never light more than you have the ability to put out! A Power Point presentation on fire weather is available. (link to Fire Weather PP Presentation under button 6, Educational Information)
Smoke Direction Determined
Smoke management is one of the most important, yet under-planned parts of prescribed burning. Smoke has the capacity to affect more people than any other aspect of prescribed burning. Understanding your fire behavior and its effects is only half the story, you must also understand what you want your smoke to do and how best to insure that result.
The state of Florida has an on-line smoke prediction tool that can provide a preview of what the smoke fron your fire will do. Its use is a required part of a Florida Burn Plan.
Never, ever burn alone, and always make sure your help knows the plan and hazards as well as you do. It’s a no-brainer to make sure your help is rested and sober. Whether you hire someone to conduct your burns for you, or you conduct the burn yourself, no amount of planning can substitute for adequate implementation. Experience helps tremendously, so consider burning with someone who has done it before, and never try to implement your plan alone. Even if you know exactly what you’re doing, accidents can happen.
To secure help for your burn try posting your burn information on the CBPBA Burn Calendar Also contact people you know who might assist in your burn and secure their commitment to help. People you meet at CBPBA burn schools are a great source of burn labor and assistance. CBPBA policy suggests that once a landowner has participated in 3 prescribed burns for co-members, members will assist him/her with theirs. Our goal is labor reciprocation.
Notify Your Neighbors
Your neighbors will be extremely interested in where your fire and smoke are headed. On the day of the burn, all neighbors should be notified that you will be burning your pasture, what time you plan to start and about what time the burn will be
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