Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

Learn Before You Burn

Open fires are any outdoor fire in which smoke is emitted directly into the air, including burning in barrels. Even when the spring burn ban is not in effect, some areas are still prohibited to burn. Call your local fire department for local burning laws and check for fire dangers in your area. Exceptions to state laws include:

A small wildfire
  • Outdoor cooking devices when used to cook food
  • Small cooking or camp fires using untreated wood or charcoal
  • Ceremonial or celebratory bonfires, where permitted
  • Small fires used to dispose of a flag or religious item or for a religious ceremony, where permitted

Dangers of Open Fires

  • Wildfires are uncontrolled fires spreading through vegetation that often have the potential to threaten lives and property if not contained.
  • Air pollution is caused by smoke which contains gases, such as carbon monoxide, and particulate matter, also called soot. Soot, especially fine soot, can harm children, pets, and the elderly, and those with lung or heart disease.

When you Burn Legally, Remember To:

  • Never leave a fire unattended.
  • Have a way to quickly extinguish the flames.
  • Know the local fire laws.
  • Check the Fire Danger Map.
  • Keep flammable objects and debris at least ten feet away from the fire.
  • Keep children, pets, and the elderly away from the smoke, though they can enjoy the fire.
  • Use non-petroleum based fuels.
  • Keep plastic, glass, metal, or items containing harmful chemicals out of the fire.
  • Avoid burning on windy days.
  • Burn as little and as infrequently as possible.

Camp, cooking and celebratory fires can be a great addition to family and social events. Keep them legal and safe, and never burn trash in them. If you have any questions about outdoor burning, send us an e-mail, or check our Frequently Asked Questions about burning.