Probably no law gets so much coverage in Milam County as the periodic outdoor burn bans which are enacted, and lifted, by county commissioners as conditions dictate.
And probably no law is misunderstood more.
During the most recent reprieve in the burn ban, Rockdale police answered at least one call to someone burning brush in the city, apparently because the burn ban had been lifted.
Except the burn ban is never lifted inside the city limits. But it seems like the message Rockdale has a permanent outdoor burning ban doesn’t get through to everyone no matter how many times our stories reference it.
Here’s the situation. The State of Texas has a law that “outdoor burning”—more on what that means later—is always illegal inside the city limits of Texas cities unless that municipality passes an ordinance to the contrary.
The City of Rockdale has an ordinance on the books saying, basically “we agree with the state.” Nothing whatsoever to do with the county.
The law gets misread in the other direction, too. The outdoor burning that’s banned means mostly that you can’t burn trash, instead of setting it out for the garbage man, and you can’t burn brush and leaves.
But it doesn’t mean you can’t grill hamburgers on your deck or have a fire in your own fireplace. Have those kinds of burns ever been reported to authorities here? You bet they have.
The county-wide burn bans are, or should be, always identified as “rural” for a reason. When they are lifted they are lifted only in the county’s unincoporated areas. When you hear a rural burn ban is on, it means burning in the rural areas is now just as illegal as burning inside municipal limits.
One very important factor to keep in mind. Legal or illegal, inside or outside city limits, burn ban or no burn ban, any time a fire of any kind you start damages someone else’s property, you are liable. Period.—M.B.