Outdoor Burning Requirements

Each year, with the annual crop of vegetation growing there is the need to manage it and in many cases dispose of it. One method used is burning. Unfortunately, with burning comes burn-related smoke complaints and the need to provide the public the correct information on how to conduct legal outdoor burns.

Confusion has arisen in the past from out-dated or mistaken information the public may have regarding Air Pollution Control District (APCD) burning and permit requirements. In some instances enforcement action by the APCD has been taken against persons who have violated air pollution regulations as a result of erroneous information that they were given. This advisory outlines basic information regarding APCD burning requirements.

Who Needs an APCD Burn Permit

Generally, residential burning (burning at a single or two family residence) does not require an APCD Burn Permit, but does require a fire agency permit during all or parts of the year depending upon the burn location. Burning at your residence may require an APCD Burn Permit if such burning falls under an APCD regulation where a permit is required. Legal burning by the public that is authorized under state law and the APCD regulations, and for which an APCD Burn Permit is required, includes:

  • Agricultural (Commercial) Burning
  • Clearing of Land for Development Burning
  • Fire Hazard Reduction Burning
  • Forestry Activity Burning
  • Levee, Ditches, Right of Way and Reservoir Burning
  • Prescribed Burning
  • Range Improvement Burning, and Wildland Vegetation Management Burning

If the type of burning activity requires an APCD Burn Permit and burning is conducted without having obtained one, it is illegal and the APCD may take enforcement action to halt the violation. Civil or criminal penalties may be sought.

What Can Be Burned

For all non-residential burning, only dry vegetative material grown on the property can be burned. Lawn-clippings cannot be burned under any circumstances. Residents of single- or two-family residences can also burn dry vegetative material, in compliance with APCD and fire agency requirements. The burning of non-vegetative material was phased-out in 2004 under State regulations. 

General waste, including paper and cardboard, trash, and construction/demolition materials cannot be burned under any circumstances. These materials can produce poisonous, toxic gases when burned.

When You Can Burn

Burning is only allowed on "permissive-burn days," regardless of whether it requires an APCD Burn Permit or not. Those wishing to burn must call 530-889-6868 or check the online burn day information each day to obtain the "Burn Day and No-Burn Day" information prior to igniting an outdoor fire. The "No-Burn" status is called either as a result of poor air quality conditions or due to hazardous fire conditions. Agricultural burners, such as rice growers or land managers, have special restrictions or allowances set upon when they can burn that are part of the APCD's Smoke Management Program.

Preventing Smoke Nuisances

All outdoor burning must be conducted in such a way as to prevent the smoke from creating a smoke nuisance. Burning wet materials or burning in large quantities produces smoke that lingers and can offend people in addition to significantly affecting air quality. Burning during daylight hours is recommended - thus allowing sunlight to heat the ground surface, evaporate morning dew and allow smoke to lift, mix, and disperse.

Points to Remember

The following are some points where the Air Pollution Control District's open burning requirements may differ from Fire Agency burning requirements:

  • Air Pollution Control Burn Permits are not required for residential "door-yard" burning, while fire agencies require permits for residential burning during the Burn Permit/Fire Season, and in some locations year-round.
  • Air Pollution Burn Permits, as noted in the bullets above. "Who Needs an APCD Burn Permit," are required year round. Some fire agencies require burn permits for the same type of burning only during the Burn Permit/Fire Season.
  • Air Pollution requirements restrict burning to dry vegetative materials, excluding lawn-clippings. The vegetative material must be grown on the property where the burning is done.
  • Fire Agency burning requirements have residential pile size restrictions, however, the APCD has no burn pile size requirements.

Alternatives to Burning

While burning is an option for disposal of vegetation, there are other methods for vegetation disposal. These include composting, shredding of leaves or pine needles, or chipping. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection in conjunction with Placer County Fire offer free residential chipping.

  • To find out more in Western Placer County call 530-889-0111, ext. 3.
  • In the Lake Tahoe area, call 530-584-2322 or view more chipping information.

Additional Information

Please contact the Placer County Air Pollution Control District at 530-745-2330 if you would like additional information concerning air pollution open burning requirements. It is our belief that having a public that is knowledgeable about both APCD and local fire agencies burning requirements will aid the general welfare of everyone by improving air quality and preventing hazardous burning.