Among the most frequently asked questions to DEQ at this time of year are:
- Am I allowed to burn yard debris in my backyard?
- What about smoke from my neighbor’s open burning?
Here are some answers, including links to valuable resources for anyone considering setting flame to branches, leaves or other residential debris.
First off, DEQ advises against burning yard debris or other domestic material. Why? Because burning causes smoke, and breathing smoke is bad for your health.
“Be kind, don’t smoke your neighbor out,” is the advice given by DEQ air quality analyst Morgan Schafer. Backyard burning or open burning is allowed in certain parts of the state at certain parts of the year. Currently, the open burning window is open for parts of Clackamas and Washington counties, and for many communities in the mid-Willamette Valley and in southern Oregon. The best way to know if open burning is allowed in your community is to use this interactive map.
DEQ has authority through the federal Clean Air Act to regulate open burning on a state level. “We set the minimum standard,” Schafer says, but local jurisdictions, such as counties, cities and fire districts add further restrictions. It’s always best to check with your local government or fire district on burning restrictions in your area, she says.
What do I do if I am breathing smoke from my neighbor’s burn?
First, if it is close to your home or your personal safety is at risk from a nearby fire, call your local fire department. Please check the interactive burn map to see if your neighbor is allowed to burn. Let us know about this burn by filing a complaint with DEQ here.
Still concerned? Call your local health department to ask for more local restrictions on open burning.
DEQ does not regulate what’s known as “recreational” burning, such as backyard firepits or barbecues.
Some final thoughts from Schafer:
- Consider alternatives to burning, such as chipping or hauling to a waste transfer station.
- If you do burn, do it safely. Always watch your pile and don’t let it get out of control.
- Know before you burn – check DEQ’s open burn website.
- Find additional resources.
— Harry Esteve, DEQ communications manager