COLLEGE STATION -- More than 520,000 acres of Texas land have been burned this year by wildfires, many of which started when an outdoor burn got out of control.

A burn ban does not have to be in place for outdoor burning to be illegal. Negligently allowing a fire to escape onto someone else’s property is a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500.

Regional Urban Wildland Interface Coordinator Karen Stafford said it’s important for residents to use caution when doing anything outdoors that could cause a spark.

“The majority of the fires we see start from careless debris burning and unsafe burn barrels,” Stafford said. “Everyone needs to exercise extreme caution with all potential sources of wildfire ignition. If we all work together, senseless and potentially deadly wildfires can be avoided.”

Some tips to consider when burning outdoors include:

Check for – and comply with – bans on outdoor burning. Avoid burning trash, leaves and brush on dry, windy days. Check to see if weather changes are expected. Postpone outdoor burning if shifts in wind direction, high winds or wind gusts are forecast. Before burning, establish wide control lines around burn barrels – down to bare mineral soil and at least 5 feet wide. Control lines should be even wider around brush and debris piles to be burned. The larger the pile, the wider the control line needed to ensure embers won’t spread and catch surrounding vegetation on fire. Stay with all outdoor fires, until they are completely out. Keep water and hand tools ready in case your fire begins to spread. Burn household trash only in a burn barrel or other trash container equipped with a screen or metal grid to keep burning material contained. Never attempt to burn aerosol cans, as heated cans will explode. Flying metal may cause injuries and the explosion may scatter burning material into nearby vegetation, resulting in wildfire. Stay abreast of wildfire danger levels and heed warnings and bans on outdoor burning.