Open burning is defined as a fire where any material is burned in the open or in a receptacle other than a furnace, incinerator, or other equipment connected to a stack or chimney. It also includes other fires such as campfires. Some recreational burning is allowed under strict conditions. However, most open burning without a permit is prohibited in Montgomery County, and fines of $500 per day may be imposed for open burning.
Chapter 3 of the Montgomery County Code and Maryland regulations (COMAR 26.11.07) place restrictions on open burning.
The following items may not be burned in the County at any time:
- Household trash
- Construction debris
- Asphalt shingles and tar paper
- Leaves, lawn thatch, and garden trimmings
- Brush and other plant life (except certain agricultural materials)
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Why Are There Prohibitions on Open Burning?
The air pollution created by open burning can directly affect the health and well-being of people who live or work near the burn sites by aggravating respiratory conditions, irritating eyes and lungs, obscuring visibility, and creating annoying odors. Smoke is dangerous for people with respiratory diseases like asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and pneumonia because it can aggravate the symptoms of these diseases.
Air pollution from open burning can also cause property damage to nearby residential and commercial property. Open burning also contributes to regional air quality problems by releasing fine particulate matter, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides, and air toxics.
What Can You Burn With a Permit?
Under specific circumstances and with the appropriate permit, some open burning is allowed, including the burning of agricultural debris, large bonfires for special ceremonial activities and official fire department training. For a permit, contact the Department of Environmental Protection by email at email@example.com or by phone at 311. Provide your name, daytime telephone number, fax number, and email address and the purpose of the open burn. You might be subject to a site visit from a County Enforcement staff member.
If you are planning a small recreational fire please see the guidelines for recreational burning below.
Did You Know?
Lodging is an agricultural term referring to damage to crop roots or stalks (typical caused by adverse weather conditions) that may reduce the ability of the plant to produce. Lodging may also refer to the actual parts of the plants that are damaged.
A salamander is an outdoor construction heater, often fueled with propane or kerosene.
The following open burns require a permit:
- Burning of agricultural debris directly related to the commercial production of livestock, food, or fiber on land that is assessed as agricultural by the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation. By state regulation, between June 1 and August 31, agricultural burning is restricted to the burning of excess lodging for the purpose of recropping.
- Bonfires or recreational or ceremonial fires larger than 3 feet in diameter.
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Location of Permitted Burns
- Open burns for agricultural purposes must take place at least 1,500 feet from an occupied building, public roadway, or facility.
- Bonfires or recreational or ceremonial fires larger than 3 feet in diameter must take place at least 1500 feet away from occupied buildings, property lines, or roadways.
Open Burning for Which a Permit Will Not Be Issued
- Burning hazardous material
- Burning within 1,500 feet of an occupied building or well-traveled roadway
- Burning that creates a nuisance or generates visible smoke that crosses a property line
- Hand-warming fires in 55-gallon drums. The only warming fires permitted are those which use a salamander or other device fired with propane gas or No. 2 fuel oil if the device does not create visible emissions.
What Can You Burn Without a Permit?
Open burning without a permit is allowed for the following fires, provided that an air pollution nuisance is not created:
- Small recreational fires, such as small bonfires or campfires, no larger than 3 feet in diameter. (Note: Recreational fires cannot be used to dispose of wood, brush, or other vegetative material removed from your property.)
- Fires in salamanders or similar devices fired with propane or No. 2 fuel oil at construction sites
- Fires used for residential outdoor cooking as long as the fire is contained in an outdoor cooking apparatus
- Fires in devices like chimineas and outdoor manufactured fireplaces. These devices, which can be purchased at local home and garden retailers, have become increasingly popular. They should have a non-tipping base, a screen enclosure, and a spark arrestor, and they should be placed on a noncombustible surface at an adequate distance from any nearby structures.
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Disposal Alternatives for Material That Can't Be Burned
What Can You Burn in a Recreational Fire?
Only dry, aged, natural wood may be burned in a recreational fire. Burning household waste, construction debris, lumber, leaves, and materials that produce dense smoke when burned (including tires and roofing materials) is prohibited.
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What Conditions Must Be Met for Recreational Fires?
- Recreational fires should not be located closer than 300 feet from any neighboring habitable dwelling or place where people work or congregate or 300 feet from a busy roadway.
- The pile of material to be burned in a recreational fire must be no greater than 3 feet in diameter and 6 feet in height.
- The ground around the material to be burned should be cleared of all combustible material to prevent the fire from spreading.
- The fire should not be near tall grass or tree lines.
- You may not burn if winds are greater than 12 mph or if there is an air pollution episode (Code Orange or Code Red air quality event).
- Fire-extinguishing equipment, including sufficient water, must be readily available on the site.
- A fire supervisor, 18 years of age or older, must be within direct view of the fire at all times.
- Before lighting the fire, you must notify the Department of Fire and Rescue Services: Division of Fire Code Enforcement online, by email at Fire.CodeEnforcement@montgomerycountymd.gov, or by phone at 240-683-6520 about your intent to burn.
Report an Open Burning Violation
Report outdoor air quality violations, call 311, or email DEP at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You may also fill out a Community Complaint Report to notify the Fire Marshal's office of a fire code violation.
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