The HCPBA is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt non-profit association of landowners and others who have expressed an interest in helping each other conduct prescribed burns. We are also a member of the "Prescribed Burn Alliance of Texas (PBAT)."
Here is what we can do for you as a member of HCPBA.
- Once you have joined, you will be on our members e-mail list. Please keep us updated with any changes in your e-mail or other contact information. We will inform you by e-mail when one of our members is conducting a prescribed burn. You are welcome to participate. This is a good way to learn what is involved to execute a burn. Depending upon your training and experience with prescribed burns you will either be given a support role so that you can safely observe the activities, or an active role in the burn if you are ready for that level. Participation is voluntary, but the expectation is that if you want others to help you with your burn, you will need to help them with their burn. If you want to burn on your place, you have to have helped with at least two burns before the others will help you. When it is time to burn on your place, we will need directions or an address that we can locate on a mapping program such as Google Maps.
- We will keep you informed of training opportunities sponsored by NRCS or TPWD or other organizations. We plan to conduct our own training sessions annually.
- We can help you prepare a written burn plan that meets accepted standards using a format agreed to by all of the Prescribed Burn Associations in Texas that are members of PBAT. A burn plan template is available under forms. The completed plan must still be reviewed and accepted by HCPBA.
- You will learn what tools are necessary and will likely want to have some of your own. In general, I suggest you wait until you have been on at least one burn before you buy any tools. However, one tool that is important regardless of your role is a two-way radio. The FRS/GMRS radios available today are adequate for our needs. If you do not already have some, consider getting 5-watt GMRS units. You can get a pair for less than $100. Often the type of rechargeable batteries used determines the cost for the unit. Be sure you know what you are getting. You can also get workable units for less than $50, usually without rechargeable batteries. These are available at discount stores and home hardware stores as well as online. Any that you buy will be compatible with any similar FRS/GMRS radios that someone else may have. Note that GMRS radios require a license, but FRS radios do not.
- Other tools that you will want to consider in the future are: drip torches, pressure sprayers (backpack or ATV mounted units), weather monitors, fire swatters, specialty rakes, shovels, and hoes. The HCPBA equipment is currently being stored at the Kendall County Soil and Conservation District.
- Safety items that you will need are heavy cotton or leather gloves, long- sleeve cotton shirt and pants or specialty fire retardant clothing. Synthetics (especially nylon) tend to melt and stick to the skin causing really nasty burns and should not be worn. A bandana or smoke mask is helpful at times, and a cotton (at least not straw) brimmed hat will help shield the face when close to the flame. Leather boots are far preferred over jogging shoes or even low-cut leather shoes. An ash in your shoe is very uncomfortable.
- A few good sources for special equipment are:
The best thing you can be doing in preparation for a burn on you place is to decide what areas you want to burn and start getting firebreaks around them. A minimum of 10-ft break is required. Fifteen feet is better. Bare ground is best; low, green vegetation is sometimes suitable. Presence of cedar or juniper or other materials considered “volatile material” could mean wider firebreaks are required. Burns are usually done in winter after a freeze and before green-up starts (this can be as late as early March). Burn bans imposed by the county commissioners further restrict the time available to get burns done. Some counties have processes allowing us to burn during a burn ban. So, you need to plan early, get firebreaks in place, and be prepared to go as soon as weather is suitable. Coordination with the HCPBA members is critical if you need their assistance.
That should get you started. Now check with you insurance agent and make sure that you are covered for prescribed burns in your Homeowner’s or Farm and Ranch liability insurance. If not, you will need to buy a separate policy. It appears that some Homeowner’s or Farm and Ranch policies do cover this practice. You will need at least $500,000 liability coverage for "hostile fire" including smoke.
Also, discuss your plans with your neighbors and make sure they are open to the idea. You are liable for any damage caused by an accident. You are not allowed by state law to let smoke cause a health problem for people, animals, or sensitive plants.
Thank you for your interest in working with us.