TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — There’s a beautiful yet delicate balance that comes with preserving parklands. Wildfire mitigation has used the process of fighting fire with fire to do it.

“So people can come here recreate and enjoy those landscape today and for future generations,” said Travis County Park Land Manager Glen Gillman.

Gillman is the burn boss on scene of a prescribed burn at Reimers Ranch Park in northwest Travis County Wednesday afternoon. He and a team of more than 20 tackled 70 acres for wildfire mitigation efforts.

“It’s an art and a science. We want to see the fire do things to the landscape that are positive,” said Gillman.

Firefighters used what’s called drop torches to start the fire while units linger behind in a holding pattern, watching as the fire line does its job.

During a prescribed burn, crews aren’t just laying down fire and letting it roam free. Fire is laced down using the drop torches in strips or containment lines.

Planning for prescribed burns takes roughly six months, but weather conditions day of are key.

“It was about 40 degrees overnight, and it’s going to get up into the 60s [Wednesday],” said Gillman. “A little lower relative humidity down in the 20s. That’s appropriate conditions for us, and the winds should be lower, with gusts up to 12 to 15.”

Gillman said fuel is also considered when deciding to move foreword with a prescribed burn. Crews look at what types of grass and trees are present and how much moisture is in them at the time.

If Mother Nature plays a trick on the strategic planning, Gillman said there are contingency plans in place.

“If we don’t make rapid containment of an escape, then we’ll convert it and call 911,” said Gillman to his crews during the prescribed burn briefing.

County commissioners signed off on a burn ban Tuesday morning for unincorporated parts of Travis County, as was recommended by the Travis County Fire Marshal.

A burn ban was lifted last week by Chief Fire Marshal Tony Callaway after Central Texas got quite a bit of precipitation during last week’s storm; but that freeze also killed off any fuels that were still hanging in there, he reported.

Couple that with low humidity levels for the rest of the week, and Callaway said they were worried about the potential for high fire danger. That ban will last until March 9, unless conditions dramatically improve.

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

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 out in an education manner first and we cite repeat offenders,” Callaway said.

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.

Last month, the Rolling Pines Fire in Bastrop County began as a controlled burn. According to the county’s standard, weather conditions that day did meet the requirements but quickly changed.

A half hour before the fire started, data from the Giddings Lee airport showed gusts were at the 10 to 12 mph range. The same data an hour later showed wind gusts nearly doubled to 24 mph.