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Tips to Avoid Danger When Burning Debris at Home


There may come a time in Texas, especially when you live on acreage, that you may want to burn leaves, branch trimmings, underbrush, and other debris.

It is important, however, to conduct any outdoor burning in a safe manner to avoid wildfires and other dangers. 

“Careless debris burning is a major cause of wildland fires in Texas,” says the Texas A&M Forest Service, which keeps track of which counties in the state currently have “burn bans”.

Burn bans are put into place at certain times to prevent the risk of wildfires.

First Check to See If You are Permitted to Burn Outdoors

Before you can even start to think about safely burning outdoors, you must find out if you are even allowed to do it at your location.

You should check in this order:

  1. Locally, contact the Montgomery County Fire Marshall at (936) 538-8288 to find out whether there is a “burn ban” currently in effect.

  2. If you live in an incorporated area, inside a city or town, check with local ordinances before burning.

  3. Check with your local Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) office. In Montgomery County, contact TCEQ Region 12 at (713) 767-3500.

Local fire marshals in Texas do not have the authority to authorize outdoor banning. The Texas Health and Safety Code authorizes TCEQ to make these decisions.

For Montgomery County residents TCEQ Region 12 will determine if there is a practical alternative to their request for outdoor burning.

If there is no practical alternative, then on-site burning of trees, brush, grass, leaves, branch trimmings, and other plant growth by the property owner or authorized agent may be allowed.

Material to be burned must be generated from the property on which the burning occurs, generated because of right-of-way maintenance or land clearing operations or maintenance along water canals.

Burning of crop residue for agricultural management purposes may also be done with notification to TCEQ recommended but not required.

Structures containing sensitive receptors, humans and livestock must not be negatively impacted by the burn.

Tips for Safe Outdoors Burning

If you have the green light to burn debris outdoors, then the Texas A&M Forest Service has some tips on how to conduct it safely:

  • Avoid burning trash, leaves and brush on dry, windy days.

  • Check to see if weather changes are expected. Postpone outdoor burning if shifts in wind direction, high winds or wind gusts are forecast.

  • Before doing any burning, establish wide control lines down to bare mineral soil at least five feet wide around any burn barrels and even wider around brush piles and other piled debris to be burned. The larger the debris pile, the wider the control line that is needed to ensure that burning materials won’t be blown or roll off the pile into vegetation outside the line.

  • Stay with all outdoor fires, until they are completely out.

  • Keep water and hand tools ready in case your fire should attempt to spread.

  • Burn household trash only in a burn barrel or other trash container equipped with a screen or metal grid to keep burning material contained.

  • Never attempt to burn aerosol cans; heated cans will explode. Flying metal may cause injuries and the explosion may scatter burning material into nearby vegetation and cause a wildfire.

  • Stay abreast of wildfire danger levels and heed warnings and bans on outdoor burning.

Prevent Danger: Never Burn These Five Items

The TCEQ says there are five items you should never burn under any circumstances as they post a health and safety risk:

  1. Electrical insulation

  2. Tires

  3. Treated lumber (construction or demolition waste)

  4. Heavy oils or asphalt materials

  5. Potentially explosive materials or chemicals

Different Rules for Burning of Household Refuse

Keep in mind that in Montgomery County there are different rules for burning household refuse vs. plant growth such as underbrush and leaves.

In Montgomery County burning of household refuse such as garbage, rubbish, paper, and other decayable and non-decayable waste, including vegetable matter and animal and fish carcasses is prohibited in the following conditions:

  • On a lot that is in a neighborhood (a platted subdivision; or property contiguous to and within 300 feet of a platted subdivision).

  • On a lot that is smaller than five acres.

  • Businesses may not burn household refuse.

A violation of this State Law is a Class C Misdemeanor punishable by mandatory Community Service and a fine of up to $500.


Reporting Illegal Burning Outdoors

If you suspect someone is illegally burning outdoors in Montgomery County you can contact the Montgomery County Fire Marshall and submit a complaint form.

Other resources would be to contact:

At Montgomery County 9-1-1, we work to ensure all citizens of Montgomery County can easily and quickly obtain the emergency services needed to protect life, health, or property. 

Our mission is to provide systems which allow anyone, at any time, from any place within Montgomery County, using any kind of telephone to connect with emergency service providers by dialing 9-1-1.

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