Mayor's Office

Press Release

Temporary BBQ Pit & Smoking Ban Lifted in All COH Parks



December 22, 2011 -- Mayor Annise Parker, the Houston Parks and Recreation Department (HPARD) and the Houston Fire Department (HFD) are pleased to announce that the temporary grilling & smoking ban enacted in September of this year in response to unprecedented drought conditions is being lifted for all City of Houston parks, effective Friday, December 23, 2011.


“We’ve been able to make enough progress on the removal of dead trees in the 12 city parks where the ban had remained in effect to lift the ban entirely,” said Mayor Parker.  “We appreciate the support that our citizens have given us during the past few months as we've all faced the effects of this year's drought.”


Since September, HPARD's Forestry Division has been working to reduce the fuel load in City parks, esplanades and other green spaces.  This process is expected to wrap up sometime in early 2012, barring any unforeseen weather delays.


“We thank all Houstonians for their patience over the past few months as we have all worked together to deal with the aftermath of the 2011 drought,” said Joe Turner, Director, Houston Parks and Recreation Department.


“Our forestry/green space staff has been working with our contractor to remove hazardous trees from our parks and green spaces, taking down more than 8,000 trees so far.  We are now planning to Re-Plant Houston during our annual Arbor Day Celebration on January 21st and hope that Houstonians will keep this volunteer project in mind as they make their New Year’s resolution plans.”


“Even though the temporary ban on grilling and smoking has been lifted, certain types of open burning are always prohibited within the City without an approved permit,” said HFD Executive Assistant Chief Richard Galvan.  “This includes fireworks, bonfires, rubbish fires, campfires, trench fires, or other fires in an outdoor location where fuel being burned is not contained in an approved incinerator, such as an outdoor fireplace, barbecue grill or barbecue pit.”


While the temporary BBQ pit & smoking ban will be lifted for all COH parks, the drought still continues in the region and our area’s rainfall count is still below normal.  Citizens are advised to continue to keep the following fire safety tips in mind:


Barbecue Safety


  • Portable barbecue pits, charcoal grills and other open-flame cooking devices outside of a building should not be operated on combustible balconies or located within 10 feet of combustible walls or roofs or other combustible materials.
  • When igniting the barbecue charcoal, use a charcoal lighter, not gasoline. Gasoline can flash violently in and around the pit causing serious injuries to anyone in the area of the flash. A fire extinguisher or charged garden hose should be handy while the fire is burning. Check the pit frequently to ensure that it is okay.
  • Hot ash and coals from barbecue pits and charcoal burners should be placed in a non-combustible container until cooled or thoroughly saturated with water, before being disposed.


Vehicles, Trailers and Tools


  • Park vehicles so that the exhaust system does not come in contact with dry grass, leaves, or weeds.
  • Adjust the safety chains on trailers to ensure they don’t drag and create sparks that can cause roadside starts.
  • Keep lawn mowers and agricultural equipment in proper working condition and avoid rocks and other materials which might cause a spark.
  • Do not weld or cut without a spotter, a water source and a shovel.
  • Notify the electric power company when dead trees or overhanging limbs endanger the electric wires.  The wires may touch each other or the ground, causing sparks that start fires.


Cigarettes or Other Smoking Materials


  • Another cause of accidental fires is carelessly discarded cigarettes or other smoking materials.  They can smolder for hours and should be completely doused with water before being discarded in a safe manner, rather than tossed out a window or on the ground.
  • Texas’ arson law includes felony punishment for anyone whose cigarette recklessly sets fire to a building or injures anyone.  Arson is a second-degree felony in Texas, punishable by up to 20 years in prison, but if a person is hurt or killed or if the fire involves a church, arson is a first-degree felony with possible punishment of up to life in prison.