What is Open Burning?
Open burning refers to different types of controlled outdoor fires, such as small residential fires to burn yard waste or commercial land-clearing fires. In North Carolina, state law limits what can be burned outdoors, and when.
North Carolina law prohibits burning trash and non-vegetative materials. Leaves, branches and other plant growth can be burned under certain conditions.
The North Carolina Division of Air Quality (DAQ) enforces the state’s open burning regulations. Illegal open burning harms air quality and public health. Violators can be fined up to $25,000. Open burning complaints should be submitted to the local DAQ Regional Office.
If your question isn’t answered below, read our Burning Questions FAQ.
Open Burning Rules & Regulations
The Open Burning Rule is one of North Carolina's oldest air quality regulations, first adopted in 1971. These rules are listed in 15A NCAC 2D .1900, which was last amended by the N.C. General Assembly in 2015. In addition to the state open burning rules, you may also be subjected to local ordinances, local burn bans, or permitting requirements from the N.C. Forest Service. Compliance with these open burning rules does not guarantee compliance with all local rules and regulations.
What can be burned
One of the most important open burning rules is: If it doesn’t grow, don’t burn it. It is ALWAYS illegal to burn trash, construction materials or anything man-made and non-vegetative.
Do not burn
- Metal, including wire
- Newspaper, cardboard or paper
- Untreated dimensional lumber
- Tires and other rubber products
- Heavy oils
- Asphalt shingles
- Paints and household or agricultural chemicals
- Buildings, including outbuildings and mobile homes
- Any man-made, artificial or synthetic items
Only burn these items
- Natural vegetation from your own yard
- Logs, stumps, limbs and other natural vegetation as part of land clearing
Open Burning Rules
Even when burning allowed materials, make sure to follow all applicable rules.
Residential yard waste and commercial land clearing burning can only occur between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. (No new vegetation can be added to a burn pile after 6 p.m.). Also, burning is only allowed when the air quality forecast is Code Green or Code Yellow. Burning on Code Orange, Red or Purple days is prohibited.
Yard waste must originate at a private residence and be burned on that site. In other words, residents can only burn vegetation from their own yard — not yard waste from other homes or locations — and only if it is allowed under local ordinances and only if public pickup is not available.
Land clearing is defined as the uprooting or clearing of vegetation in connection with construction, land development, or mining, or the initial clearing of vegetation to enhance property value. As a general rule, the vegetation should originate on the site where the burn is taking place. (Land clearing waste can be transported and burned at another site up to four times a year only if specific conditions in the open burning rules are met). Kerosene or diesel fuel may be used to start a land-clearing fire, but no other man-made materials can be burned. Land clearing burn piles must be at least 500 feet from occupied structures and at least 250 feet from any public road when the prevailing winds are blowing toward the road. Information on wind direction is available from the National Weather Service.
Campfires, outdoor cooking fires and bonfires are permissible, unless prohibited by local ordinances or temporary burn bans, provided that only vegetation such as firewood is burned. Fires must be controlled and never left unattended.
Do I need a Burn Permit?
The N.C Forest Service may require an open burning permit before certain fires are lit, including fires in protected areas.
The Division of Air Quality does not issue burn permits. Burn permits are available through the N.C. Forest Service’s online application at ncforestservice.gov/burnpermit or by contacting a local N.C. Forest Service county office or local permitting agent. For more information, contact the N.C. Forest Service.