How do your departments handle a fire that your called to that either got out of control or was not issued a permit?
My department was called to a fire that spread into another field...the person who started the fire was not issued a permit, then left the field. A few hours later, we are called in to put out the fire. Besides a cop writing a ticket, does you department issue a fine? Is it legal to issue a fine or bill? Then on burn permits, is it legal to put a charge if it gets out of control? Thoughts and comments are welcome!
We don't issue burn permits in our city, but there are plenty of recreational types of fires we respond to. There is an ordinance for such fires and many factors involved in being able to have a recreational fire in the city. Essentially if we are called and the fire is beyond the established factors, the homeowner is told to put the fire out...or we do it for them. Most times a fine isn't levied unless it is a repeat offender.
Fines can be and have been levied in fire inspection cases with buildings not conforming to codes. Many times such violations are found by crews doing inspections and the property owner is given a chance to fix them. If the violations still exist after a time period, the issue is forwarded to the Fire Marshal office and they may levy a fine for non-compliance if needed.
The FD has levied fines for different fire related offenses. The regular crews do not do this, but could if absolutely necessary, most times the Fire Marshal's office is notified and they will be the ones to issue a citation.
So to answer your questions, yes, it is legal to issue a fine or bill, it is legal to put stipulations on a burn permit as well as notice of charges if the fire gets out of control. Sometimes the reality that the wallet can be impacted is enough for people to take fire safety seriously.
Outdoor burning is illegal in Texas, however there are a few exceptions, and enforcement is rare. It is an environmental issue and is overseen by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. We don't have as big a problem in our district because the word is out that if we are called, the fire is put out. Other nearby departments make little attempt to extinguish them. Pollution Control is notified on large fires, and fines can be up to $25000 per day, per violation, and each fire on a premise constitutes a separate violation. There have been a couple of instances where fines were issued plus, the department received compensation to recoup our expenses.
Should a fire get out of control and cross property lines, the property owner where the fire originated can be sued in court for damages.
In the counties we serve, also in Texas, the fire marshals' offices issue the permits on days when the weather will allow burning. I understand citizens can burn leaves, branches, etc., just no construction materials, plastic, rubber, trash, etc. The fire marshals typically tell the citizens, "If it's didn't grow there you can't burn it."
If we get called we have the dispatcher double check the permit log, then when we get on scene we contact the resident first. If they need to put it out we stand by while they extinguish the fire. If there's no burn ban and the fire is legal we leave it alone.
If the fire is out of control or contains illegal materials the owner gets a visit from a fire marshal and it'll probably be costly $$$. We at the fire department do not issue any citations.
Our permits are issued at the county level. LIke Norm said it is strictly for vegetation, not couches and tires. If we are called out we check for a permit and if the fire is under control we leave, if not either they put it out or we will. Fines can be levied against the homeowner. I know that we had one instance where an indivual was buring a trash pit that contained some rather nasty materials, a call was made to the EPA and he paid a very hefty fine. In our area if it's an agricultural burn they do not need a permit and can pretty much do what they want as long as they can prove that it is impacting their livelihood and it is directly related to their business.
We don't issue any permits and people can burn pretty much whatever they like around here. The only time that changes is when the State Fire Marshall's Office issues county wide burn bans. When there is a burn ban on we get called for any fire, no matter what it is. We usually give people one freebie and if we have to come out again we have the Sheriffs office issue a citation.