TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — As Central Texas prepares for a cold front starting Wednesday into early Thursday, Travis County’s chief fire marshal says he’s concerned about the fire danger that front could bring with it.

Starting Thursday, Jan. 20, the unincorporated parts of Travis County will be under an outdoor burn ban. County commissioners signed off on it Tuesday morning.

“I’m concerned with the drop that we’re going to see in humidity levels,” said Tony Callaway, the chief fire marshal for the county, also noting that as we see colder weather, grass and other fuels die and are more conducive to fire spread.

Meanwhile, Will Boettner, a Travis County wildfire mitigation officer, said the wind ahead of the front also plays a significant role.

“We’re seeing an opportunity for any fire that gets started to obviously get more oxygen because the wind’s blowing, just as if you could blow on a campfire to make the coals glow faster, and it’s also going to make the fire move more quickly across the ground,” Boettner said.

Boettner talked to KXAN about the burn ban and what it means for people in unincorporated Travis County.

Travis County says the outdoor burning ban does not affect prescribed burns conducted under the supervision of a prescription burn manager. It also does not affect outdoor welding, cutting or grinding operations and outdoor hot works operations conducted in accordance with the fire marshal’s guidelines.

Under the ban you CANNOT:

  • Burn any combustible material outside of an enclosure which contains all flames and/or sparks
  • Engage in any activity outdoors that could allow flames or sparks that could result in a fire unless done in an enclosure designed to protect the spread of fire

“It’s not arbitrary,” Boettner said. “It’s always because we’re trying to keep our residents and their property and their families safe.”

You could face a misdemeanor charge and a fine of up to $500 if you don’t follow the rules, according to a previous burn ban order that was in place.

“We always go after education first, enforcement second,” Callaway said. “Repeat offenders are those we go after enforcement on.”

The ban will run one month and can be lifted at any time if conditions dramatically improve.

If you live in unincorporated Travis County and would like to get text messages about burn ban status changes, you can sign up for those alerts on Travis County’s website here.

If you have questions, you can contact the Fire Marshal’s Office at (512) 854-4621.

Burn ban already in effect for Williamson County

In response to at least four fires within county limits last week, Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell declared a local state of disaster. The order prohibits outdoor burning in all unincorporated areas of the county.

Smoking in and/or on Williamson County parks, preserves and trails is also banned due to dry vegetation, wind and an “imminent threat of severe damage.”

Under the order, you CANNOT:

  • Burn any combustible material outside of an enclosure made to contain all flames and/or sparks
  • Burn household yard waste, such as leaves, grass,  brush and other yard trimmings
  • Burn to clear land of trees, stumps, shrubbery or other natural vegetation

It’s considered a criminal offense if anyone disobeys the order. Violators could be fined up to $1,000 or even be jailed.

The order is in effect for at least seven days and can be lifted by Gravell if conditions improve.