Pro-con: Are controlled burns safe and necessary?

Jessica Priest By Jessica Priest

March 31, 2013 at 11 p.m.
Updated March 31, 2013 at 11:01 p.m.

Waves of smoke alarmed Crossroads residents Feb. 1 and prompted a debate about the need for controlled burns.

Workers at Diebel Ranch were conducting a carefully planned controlled burn on about 400 acres of land near a rural stretch of Salem Road.

"That day, I was trying to get to the call, and it was bumper-to-bumper traffic both ways at lunch time," Victoria County Fire Marshal Ron Pray said of responding to an onslaught of dispatch calls. "I couldn't get down the road to get to the ranch gate to find out what was going on. ... Everyone was spectating, so to speak."

Some complaining were asthmatics who contended authorities should have warned the public ahead of time that an irritant would swoop into town. They did so again when a crew at Powderhorn Ranch set a prescribed fire near Port O'Connor in mid-March.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Texas Department of Agriculture and a host of other organizations provide farmers and ranchers with some guidelines to follow before striking a match, such as avoiding the practice when its within 300 feet from a populated area. But no state law says people living in the county have to give Pray and his counterparts advance notice.

In fact, a certified burn manager, a distinction given to those who are schooled heavily in Texas' Natural Resource Code, can supersede the jurisdiction of county commissioners during a burn ban and burn land anyway.

Pro: When done responsibly, fires help agricultural community grow

Con: Officials should notify public, regulate controlled burns more



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