Outdoor Burning

Important information about outdoor burning

This information is provided for all persons in Williamson County Emergency Services District #3 (WCESD #3), which includes the City of Hutto and other areas that are within the District. In recent years outdoor burning has come under great scrutiny because of damage to the environment and harmful effects on humans that are sensitive to smoke and other pollutants from fire.
Persons wishing to conduct an outdoor burn should be aware of State and Local Regulations that apply to outdoor burning. State Requirements are addressed in a document entitled “Outdoor Burning in Texas”, published by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, (formerly the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission). This information can be accessed online at www.tceq.texas.gov and searching under available publications. Local requirements for WCESD #3 are covered in the local amendments to the 2018 International Fire Code, Section307.2.1 – Authorization. A copy of the 2018 International Fire Code is available for review purposes at the Williamson County Emergency Services District #3 Fire Administration, 210 E. Highway 79. Within the City of Hutto, Article10.03 of the Code of Ordinances also applies. Any or all three of these regulations may apply to an outdoor burn in Williamson County Emergency Services District#3.
fire truck with the lights on

When is outdoor burning allowed

Outdoor burning is allowed by state and local requirements when it is used solely for recreational or ceremonial purposes; in the noncommercial preparation of food, or exclusively to provide warmth in cold weather. In other words, campfires and cooking fires are allowed. However, fires built under this exception cannot contain any electrical insulation, treated lumber, plastics, construction, or demolition materials not made of wood, heavy oils, asphalted materials, explosive materials, chemical wastes, or items containing natural or synthetic rubber.

Other than as provided above, outdoor burning is generally prohibited in the State of Texas. This is governed by state law and local ordinances cannot supersede this requirement. The State does however, provide for a limited number of exceptions. Even if a situation fits all the requirements for one of the state exceptions, there are a number of conditions which must be met.

The most common exception(s) to regulations against outdoor burning in our area come under the general topic of “Fires for Disposal or Land Clearing”. Specifics for each type of fire will not be addressed here. Those specifics are referenced in the “Outdoor Burning in Texas” booklet published by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Considerations for maintenance and land clearing as stipulated by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality are as follows.

“Trees, brush, and other plant growth may be burned to maintain right of ways, clear land, or maintain the banks of water canals where there is no practical alternative and when the materials are generated only from the property on which the burning occurs. Burning carried out under this exception must conform with all of the general requirements for outdoor burning and may not produce adverse effects for structures containing sensitive receptors – for example, occupied buildings, barns or greenhouses.”

Fire man next to a fire truck

Requirements for outdoor burning within Williamson County ESD#3

Specific and or local requirements pertaining to outdoor burning within Williamson County Emergency Services District #3 include the following:

1. None of the local requirements are intended nor can they be construed to alleviate or exempt any person from requirements of State Law or Regulation.

2. For any person wishing to conduct an outdoor or open burn within Williamson County Emergency Services District #3 the following procedures will apply:
• The responsible party must contact the Williamson County Emergency Communications Center and the fire department prior to lighting the fire. The party will be advised if conditions are projected to be favorable to outdoor burning or if the burn is not to be conducted.
• An inspector may visit the open burn site at any time during the fire or at the ending time of the fire. If the burn is not being conducted in accordance with state and local requirements, the fire can be ordered to be discontinued at that time.
• The fire chief, fire marshal, or fire officer may order the fire to be discontinued at any time if it is determined that emissions are offensive or causing some other problem to others.
• If a complaint is received from some member of the public about emissions and it is determined the complaint is based on sensitivity to emissions, the fire will be discontinued immediately.

It is important to remember that any person who conducts outdoor burning within requirements of state and local regulations is still responsible for any consequences, damages, or injuries resulting from the burning. No one is exempted complying with all applicable laws, ordinances, regulations, and orders of those governmental entities having jurisdiction, even though the burning is otherwise conducted incompliance with State Regulations. That means that the responsible party conducting the outdoor burn stands the chance of being held liable if something does go wrong.

Click here for the State of Texas Outdoor Burning Information