ABILENE, Texas -

Last week's rain and the current low winds in Taylor County signal a prime time for controlled burns, according to fire officials.

The weather will help prevent the accidental spread of a wildfire during a controlled burn. Burning excess brush can decrease the amount of potential fuel load on a property as the land dries out.

Elm Creek Citizens Association Fire Chief Jimmy hall said landowners must first mow or cut down surrounding grass and weeds before starting a controlled burn. He said someone must always keep an eye on the fire to make sure it does not spread.

"If it does get out of control, the person responsible for that original controlled burn can be held liable for any damages if it spreads to a neighbor's property," Hall said.

Hall said controlled burns cannot be set at night.

"I really think it has to do with the glow of the fire as [fire departments] get a lot of calls about it and it creates--they think it's a real fire and it turns out to be a controlled burn, I think it creates a lot of confusion," Hall said.

Hall described the simplest way for passerby to discern whether smoke is coming from a controlled burn or a real fire.

"Usually if you see the smoke column is concentrated, coming from one area it's not spread out over the horizon, that's usually an indication that it's a brush pile or coming from a single source," Hall said.

The Taylor County Sheriff's Office must be notified at (325) 674-1300 of all controlled burns.