DEQ answers your fall outdoor burning questions
Tuesday, November 20, 2018
BOISE – Fall cleanup season in Idaho is underway and the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) receives numerous questions from residents asking which items can be burned outdoors. Although the agency recommends finding alternatives to burning whenever possible to protect air quality and public health, when burning may be necessary here are some frequently asked questions to help you out:
Q: What are some alternatives to burning?
A: DEQ encourages residents to use cleaner and safer alternatives to burning, such as composting, mulching, or curbside recycling of yard waste where available.
- Recycle paper products whenever possible.
- Compost yard debris and kitchen scraps.
- Buy or rent a chipper and use chips for mulch and compost.
- Take hazardous materials such as oil-based paints, solvents, garden chemicals, and car fluids to a hazardous waste collection site. Burning these materials is illegal and extremely dangerous.
- Donate materials.
Q: If there is no alternative to burning, what should I do?
A: If there is no alternative to burning, DEQ advises potential burners to check with local fire protection districts and the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) to find out if a permit is required and check DEQ’s Daily Air Quality Reports and Forecasts page and outdoor open burning map to see if burning has been regulated in your area.
If burning is the only option, these guidelines can minimize smoke impacts from open burning:
- Burn only clean, dry material. Remove any dirt that would inhibit good combustion. Green limbs and other vegetative garden waste smolder and produce excessive smoke.
- Keep the burn pile small and manageable. Large piles develop a lot of ash, robbing the pile of oxygen and causing smoky conditions.
- Burn during the midday hours, between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., when solar heating and ventilation is at its maximum. To prevent smoke from lingering near the ground, never start a burn in the evening or during early morning hours. Complete burning before dusk.
- Do not burn green slash piles, and use additional precautions when burning near residential areas.
Q: Which items are prohibited from burning?
A: It is illegal to burn garbage and most human-made substances, including plastics, hazardous wastes, paints or painted materials, tires, and trade wastes (produced by a business), all of which emit hazardous pollutants into the air when burned. You cannot burn the following items:
Q: What am I allowed to burn?
A: Unless a burn ban is in effect or other restrictions apply, such as prohibited by local ordinance, residents may burn the following:
- Tree leaves, yard trimmings, and gardening waste only if allowed by local ordinance or rule and burned on the property where they were grown
- Fires for preparation of food, campfires, barbecues, and hand warming
- Weeds along fence lines and canal and ditch banks
- Ceremonial fires
Q: When do I need a special permit to burn?
A: Prescribed burning and crop residue burning require special burn permits.
IDL requires a permit for all open burning of forest, rangeland, and crop residue to accomplish land management objectives.
Individuals living outside city limits anywhere in Idaho who plan to burn for any reason during closed fire season (May 10 – Oct. 20), must obtain a fire safety burn permit from IDL. Contact your local IDL office for prescribed burning information and permits.
Always contact your local fire protection district as other permits may be required.
Growers may burn crop residue when approved by DEQ. Training, permits, and fees are required outside reservation boundaries. Contact DEQ’s Crop Residue Program or regional office for more information.