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Can I Burn Brush in My Backyard?

Can I Burn Brush in My Backyard?

Are you wondering where you can take all that brush after a major landscaping overhaul? Well. For one, you can hire a bin and have it trucked away. However, if you don’t want to spend extra time or money hauling it away, you could consider burning it in your backyard.

Cities and county governments have strict regulations on burn days and burn regulations. These are meant to prevent homeowners from burning toxic substances in their backyards or starting a bush fire by conducting a burn on a very dry month.

Consult With Local Authorities to Get Prevailing Directives

Always check with your local fire department or related authorities to determine if you can and when you can conduct a backyard burn. If you are out of season, keep piling up the waste until it is time.

Additional sensible restrictions include ensuring you are at least 150 feet from your neighboring houses and no more than 50 feet close to yours. This directive alone limits people who can burn brush in their backyard.

If your property is too small to afford you such space, you cannot legally conduct an open brush burn in your backyard.

Even if you have the space, you should also take precautions to prevent the fire from spreading. You don’t want to be responsible for starting a bush fire or burning down your neighborhood. We will look into the utmost precautions later on. Please stick with us.

What Can I Burn in My Backyard?

Once you’ve cleared the above prerequisites and cleared with the local authorities, you must ensure that your brush and burn pile doesn’t contain any forbidden things.

Brush, dry grass, tree branches, dry leaves, weeds (not marijuana), and other plant remnants are fair game. However, you should avoid throwing in:

  • Any treated wood like plywood, particleboard, MDF, or pressure-treated wood
  • Recyclable items
  • Clothing or insulation
  • Household waste like rugs, wet wipes, or diapers
  • Anything with paint on it

Your brush burn should contain yard debris and a bit of newspaper or lighter fluid to get the fire going.

Safety Tips To Follow When Doing a Controlled Burn in the Backyard

Once you’ve secured your burn permit or have confirmed that you can conduct a burn and the authorities know, it is time to prepare a sensible burn area and start the controlled fire.

Preparing the Burn Area

A burn area should be a cleared place that is removed from other flammable bits and pieces. Apart from being over 50 feet from the nearest house, it should also be:

  • Over 50 feet from a forest, bushes, or field of crops
  • Ensure there’s nothing flammable in an area of around 10 feet around the burn. You can do this by clearing the ground or dousing it with water and keeping it wet throughout the burn.
  • The burn area should be away from trees, power lines, and other pylons
  • Keep your burn pile small. If possible, keep it less than 4 feet squared. Some states require this
  • If possible, burn the brush in a burn barrel or a fire pit
  • Have a fire extinguisher and a ready garden hose at hand to douse the fire when you feel it could get out of control

If you can’t find a fire pit or a burn barrel, you can create a confined burning area using cinder blocks or bricks.

Arrange the blocks to create a four square feet (internal area) space at least a foot high. This should contain embers and limit how much you can feed the fire hence helping you keep everything in control.

Keep Your Fire Small and Contained

Keeping the fire small and manageable is the first step to remaining in charge when conducting a brush burn. Please resist the urge to set everything on fire and be over with it. Big fires are hard to control or extinguish when they get out of control.

Some jurisdictions will dictate that a fire can’t be higher than four feet or wider than four square feet.

The best way to keep a fire small is to start with just enough brush to get the fire going. After this, feed it with small bits of plant waste to keep it going but keep the flame low.

It might take a while to burn through your brush. But if whatever you are burning is clean, you can turn it into a fun makeshift barbecue. Just ensure you only drink water. You have to be sober and alert throughout.

Consider Getting or Making a Burn Barrel

Experience has taught me that using a burn barrel or a dedicated fire pit like a Solo stove is a great way to keep the fire fiery but controlled.

Burn barrels burn hotter. This means they produce less smoke, and no one will complain about the smoke from your brush burn.

Moreover, a burn barrel or dedicated burner could make it easier to use the heat coming from your waste burn. It doesn’t have to go to waste.

Reuse the Brush Instead of Burning it Off

An alternative to just burning off your yard waste would be repurposing it. Grass and leaves can go into the compost pit or heap to produce manure you can use to fertilize your yard or garden.

Bigger bits of brush and branches can go into your firepit. You can use them as a fire starter or a free fuel source when you need a quick but hot open fire.

Even though you will have to keep feeding the fire pit, the brush and small branch pieces will still produce a nice bonfire that will keep you warm at night or give you a good flame to cook something on.

Can You Burn Yard Waste in a Fire Pit?

Yes. You can burn yard waste in a fire pit as long as you can control it and keep the fire as low as any other normal firepit flame.

If they’re branches and brambles, you can even use the heat to warm yourself up or cook something while at it. 

As long as you dong let the fire go too high, you might not even need a permit to burn bits of your yard waste in a fire pit. 

If you don’t want to burn it all through, you can use it as a fire starter before throwing in bigger wood logs.

How to Burn Yard Waste Without Smoke

Burning yard waste without producing smoke is almost impossible. However, you can reduce smoke produced by using a confined burner that raises temperatures so high that it burns the smoke or reduces how much smoke is produced.

A good start would be a burn barrel or a solo stove. You can go for other fire burners meant to run on wood and have a long chimney that makes it easy to burn soot and smoke before releasing it into the environment.

Investing in burning yard waste without producing smoke is time-consuming and expensive since you have to get a burner. You will be better off hauling the waste away if you don’t already own the burner or don’t plan to keep using it for other purposes.

Can You Burn Brush in City Limits?

Most municipalities don’t allow people to burn brush within city limits. The risk of the fire spreading from house to house is very high. Moreover, in the confined city space, the smoke will linger, irritating everyone in the neighborhood.

This, coupled with cities’ elaborate garbage disposal, makes the need to burn yard waste minimal. Moreover, city yards are inherently small. The chances of producing enough yard waste to warrant a burn are minimal.

Is it Illegal to Burn Brush?

It depends on your location and when you are burning it. Different jurisdictions have different laws governing open fire burns. Most states require you to get a valid signed permit from your local open burning official.

You have to conduct the burn on a permitted day, and this permit does not waive liability for any fire damage resulting from the fire.

Pay attention to what your permit defines as a brush. Most jurisdictions use the word to cover shrubs, prunings, and vegetation that don’t have a diameter wider than three inches. Note that some don’t consider leaves and grass as brushes.

Case Study: Massachusetts

Massachusetts allows open burning between mid-winter and early spring as long as you are not in the 22 densely populated towns. 

  • You must get a permit in person from your local fire department
  • The permit is only valid for the issued day and can be revoked if prevailing conditions change
  • Open burns can only happen between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m
  • The fire must be at least 75 feet from all dwellings
  • The air quality must be acceptable for burning

The state also forbids you from burning:

  • Leaves
  • Brush, wood, or trees from commercial and industrial land clearing
  • Grass, tires, tree stumps, and hay
  • Construction material
  • Household trash

Case Study: Minnesota

The state uses the Department of Natural Resources or local fire stations to manage open burning. Generally, you can burn dead vegetation at specific times of the year at specific places. 

You will always need a permit when the snow cover is under 3 inches, and you can never conduct a burn when it is very dry.

Either way, you must get the burning permit from a DNR forestry office, purchase one online, or from a fire warden. You should confirm that your local municipality allows burning even with the necessary permissions. Your local fire department should tell you.

Burning without a permit can get you up to 90 days in jail, a $1000 fine, or both.

You can burn:

  • Dry leaves
  • Brush 
  • Plant clippings
  • Clean untreated and unpainted wood

Nonetheless, the state always recommends decomposing and other alternative disposal methods for your brush.

Is it Safe to Burn Today?

Local fire departments and natural resource management offices will assess the risk of forest fires in a day and advise people accordingly. They take note of prevailing conditions like:

  • How dry the environment is
  • Prevailing winds (you can use a weather station for more insight)
  • The season
  • Your burning location

Even after getting a permit, you should monitor these conditions and put off your fire in case winds pick up or the surrounding grass and trees are very dry. Wind and dry vegetation increase the chances of a fire spreading and turning into a fully-fledged forest or crop fire.