In Texas, is it criminal to accidentally start a wildfire? Here’s what it can cost you

A critical fire threat continued for the North Texas region Friday as hot and dry weather conditions persist for the region.

Fort Worth and surrounding areas west of I-35 have been under a red flag warning since the start of August, meaning conditions have been favorable for extreme fire behavior.

High temperatures and minimal rain has made vegetation extremely dry.

Wes Moorehead, Texas A&M Forest Service Fire Chief, previously told the Star-Telegram that nine out of 10 times wildfires in Texas are caused by human action.

Even something as simple as pulling over your vehicle on the side of the road can start a fire from the hot exhaust making contact with dead grass.

“Your actions can start a wildfire, even though you don’t intend to,” Moorehead said.

Is it a crime to accidentally start a wildfire?

In Texas, a person commits arson if they start a fire or cause an explosion with the intent to destroy another person’s property.

Even if you unintentionally start a wildfire, there could be serious consequences.

Fires started recklessly are also classified as arson under the Texas Penal Code.

Starting a fire recklessly is a state jail felony which could land you a hefty fine up to $10,000 and jail time between 180 days and two years, according to the Penal Code.

If the fire resulted in bodily injury or death, the offense would be classified as a third degree felony.

A person guilty of a third degree felony could face between two to 10 years of prison time and a fine of up to $10,000.

Texas Current Water Availability and Conditions

This map shows the current Texas water conditions by watershed and currently available data for streams and reservoirs. Use the buttons below to switch the map's focus to drought conditions and above and below average stream and reservoir levels. Tap on watersheds, streams and reservoirs for more information on levels and flow rates. Water conditions are color coded with blues indicating above-normal conditions, green being normal and yellow and red indicating below-normal conditions. The streamflow and reservoir information is in real-time, and watershed information is updated daily.


SOURCES: Environmental Protection Agency, USGS National Water Information System, ESRI and US Drought Monitor.