Submitted by Chief Tim Dupont, South Cameron Fire Dept.
Most citizens do not realize the consequences of lighting a grass/marsh fire. The person that lights the fire can be held liable for criminal or civil damages if property damages or bodily injury are caused to others.
Below are some of the Federal, State, And Local laws that apply:
Applicable Federal Laws:
•Arson (18 U.S.C. § 844(i):
When property used for interstate commerce (state highway or coast) – Up to 40 years in prison.
Applicable State Laws:
•Fire-raising on lands of another by criminal negligence: (LA R.S 14:204):
If brush fire is started on offender’s property and the fire spreads to lands of another – Up to $300 fine and up to 30 days prison, in addition to the restitution that might be owed.
If false report of fire called in – Up to $500 fine and up to 6 months in prison.
•Negligent Arson (LA R.S. 14:52.2):
When human life is NOT in danger – 1st conviction: up to $1000 fine and up to 6 months in prison, in addition to the restitution that might be owed; – 2nd conviction: up to $2000 fine and up to 2 years in prison, in addition to the restitution that might be owed.
If human life IS in danger – Up to $3000 fine and up to 3 years in prison, in addition to the restitution that might be owed.
If someone sustains “death” or “serious bodily injury” due to the negligent fire: – Up to $5000 fine and up to 5 years in prison, in addition to the restitution that might be owed.
•Simple Arson (LA R.S. 14:52):
When the damage exceeds $500 – Up to $15,000 fine and up to 15 years in prison.
When the damage is less than $500 – Up to $2,500 fine and up to 5 years in prison.
If arson damage caused to religious building (LA R.S. 14:52.1): – Up to $15,000 fine and up to 15 years in prison.
Applicable Cameron Parish Ordinances:
•Article I; Chapter 9; Section 9.3:
Burning of fires for any reason outside of the exceptions listed in 9.4 – Up to $500 fine and up to 60 days in prison.
The list above does not include the Civil damages you may be liable for if you burn some else’s property, cause bodily injury or death to another person.
When not to burn:
-When you are unable to monitor the fire from start to finish
– In high wind situations
-Wind will blow the smoke across a highway or to a business or residence (Many weather apps can help with future wind directions)
-In drought conditions
-when the fire cannot be contained within your property (It is always helpful to bush hog or plow the outer perimeter of the burn area, to contain the fire)
Controlled burn land management can be done safely, if thought and planning are done before you light.
Know the wind directions, know where to start and end the burn. Always have fire lanes established and have equipment on hand to maintain or extinguish the fire. Contact your local Fire Chief before burning.