Open Burning

When you burn trash outdoors, the potential cost to your health, your home, your neighbors and the environment far exceeds the cost of adequate collection services.  Protect yourself, your family, your neighbors and your wallet by knowing the rules - what can you burn and where?

Remember, there may be better and cheaper alternatives to open burning.

 What is considered "open burning"? 

Open burning is defined as "the burning of any matter in such a manner that products of combustion resulting from the burning are emitted directly into the ambient (surrounding outside) air without passing through an adequate stack, duct or chimney."  Generally, anytime you light a fire outdoors, you are open burning.  The rules pertaining to open burning are contained in Chapter 33-15-04 of the North Dakota Air Pollution Control Rules (for further information view the Guide to Demolition, Disposal and Open Burning of Houses).   

What is illegal?  When is open burning permissible? 

No person may conduct, cause or permit the conduct of a salvage operation by open burning, and the burning of refuse and other combustible material by open burning is generally restricted.  However, there are some categories of permissible open burning; some of these are as follows: 

  • Fires for the instruction and training of firefighting personnel.

  • Fires set for the elimination of a fire hazard. 

  • Fires set for the removal of dangerous or hazardous material. 

  • Campfires and other fires for the outdoor preparation of food. 

  • Agricultural crop burning. 

  • Land clearing and right-of-way maintenance.  

Some of these categories require prior Department approval or notification.  Please refer to Section 33-15-04-02 for clarification and additional categories.

 Does the Department of Health ever allow exceptions to the rules? 

In order to legally burn any material that is not specifically listed as permissible, an application for open burning variance (SFN-8509) must be signed by the local or district health unit and the city or rural fire department prior to submittal to the Department  (map showing health units with regard to open burning).

No burning of trade waste or materials that generate hazardous air pollutants such as rubber products (tires), tarpaper, asphalt shingles, plastics or treated wood products will be approved.  Alternatives to burning must be investigated and the request to burn must be justified fully.  Cost of alternative disposal is not sufficient justification by itself.   Not all variance applications will be approved. 

What conditions must be met when conducting open burning? 

Regardless of whether or not the burning is permissible under the rules or whether a variance to open burn has been issued, all open burning must comply with all of the conditions contained in Subsection 33-15-04.2.  Some of these conditions are as follows: 

  • No public nuisance is or will be created. 

  • No occupied building may be impacted by air contaminants from the burning. 

  • No traffic hazards can be created. 

  • The burning must be attended and supervised at all times.

For a complete listing of all conditions, please refer to Chapter 33-15-04 of the North Dakota Air Pollution Control Rules.  These conditions are included as an attachment to any variance to open burn issued by this Department. 

What will happen to me if I'm caught illegally open burning? 

The North Dakota Department of Health has the legal authority to enforce the open burning laws.  Violations can result in substantial penalties.  If you have any questions, contact your local health unit or the Division of Air Quality of the North Dakota Department of Health at 701.328.5188.  To report a suspected illegal open burning incident, contact the above agencies or your local law enforcement agency. 


Questions may be addressed to the North Dakota Department of Health at 701.328.5188, or email Elizabeth Trythall.




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