Open burning season runs from January 15 to April 15. Open Air Burning in Massachusetts is regulated by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and enforced by the local Fire Department. A valid permit obtained from the local fire department is required. The Fire Chief reserves the right to deny open burning on any day due to weather or environmental conditions. The Fire Department will begin issuing open burning permits beginning on January 15th and end on April 15th.
Please note, MA DEP can prohibit all open burning throughout the Commonwealth on days that are not favorable for public health. The information below will explain these restrictions.
Obtaining a Permit for Open Burning:
You can obtain your open burning permit in one of two ways:
- Click Here to purchase an Open Air Burning Permit. To obtain your permit online, you will need to agree to the terms and conditions of the open burning regulations. This permit will be valid through April 15th. You will be assigned a permit number which will be required each time you activate it during the burning season. Agricultural permit applications will still need to be submitted at Fire Headquarters.
- We encourage you to obtain your burning permit online. However, if you are unable to obtain a permit online, you must pay by check and obtain the rules from Fire Headquarters located at 114 Sandwich Street upstairs in the business office. Fire personnel will then enter your information and issue you a permit. You will not be allowed to burn without a permit number.
Daily Activation of Your Permit:
Each day you wish to burn, you must activate your permit. This can be done in one of two ways:
- Click Here to log into our daily permit ACTIVATION page. If burning is allowed, you will need to submit and activate your permit. If you use the online activation, you do not need to call the business office. If you have an agricultural burning permit and wish to activate outside of the burning season please contact the Shift Commander at (508) 830-4213 Ext. 6.
- We encourage you to activate your permit online, however if necessary, you may also contact the Fire Prevention Office at (508) 830-4213 Ext 281 or Ext 1. You MUST have your permit information. If you do not activate your permit you will not be allowed to burn.
OPEN AIR BURNING PERMITS ARE ISSUED UNDER 527 CMR 10.22: THEY ARE ISSUED WITH THE FOLLOWING BURNING REGULATIONS RESTRICTIONS in addition to 310 CMR 7.07:
- Burning must be done at the address listed on the permit.
- The burning permit does not release the holder from liability or damages.
- Burning shall be brush only, brush generated on the land listed on the permit.
- Burning is only allowed on inhabited residential parcels of land.
- Burning must be done at least 75 feet from any structure.
- Burning will not start before 10:00 A.M. and must be completely out by 4:00 P.M.
- Water, shovels, rakes or similar equipment must be available to control burning.
- Smoke from burning that may constitute a health hazard or a risk to persons with respiratory problems or a nuisance will result in revocation of the burning permit.
- The burning permit may be suspended or revoked by The Plymouth Fire Department at any time.
- The fire will not be left unattended at any time.
- Open air burning in Plymouth is allowed from January 15 to April 15 depending on the weather conditions.
- Burning will not be allowed to start after 1:30 P.M.
THE FOLLOWING CONDITIONS ARE STRICTLY PROHIBITED:
- Burning on dry windy days or during periods of dry weather.
- Burning on commercial, business or industrial land.
- Burning in connection with land clearing.
- Burning grass, leaves, rubbish, trash or any building materials.
- The use of any flammable or combustible liquid as a fire starter
- Open-air burning permits are issued on the condition that the person conducting the burning is the owner or the owner’s authorized agent.
Why Does MassDEP Prohibit Open Burning on “No Burn” Days?
Open burning pollutes the air and can make it difficult for people with respiratory problems to breathe. When the air is stagnant, open burning can create smoke and odor nuisances – and health risks – for nearby residents, particularly in populated areas. On “good air” days, existing pollution levels are low and air circulates well. During the “open burning season” (which runs from January 15 to May 1), open burning is allowed in Massachusetts only on days when BOTH air quality and fire safety conditions are acceptable. Local fire departments make decisions about fire safety, and MassDEP decides whether the air quality on each day is good enough to allow open burning.
What is MassDEP’s decision based on?
MassDEP’s Air Pollution Regulation (310 CMR 7.07) authorizes the Department to prohibit open burning on days when it may cause or contribute to a condition of air pollution. MassDEP develops a daily air quality forecast based on models and analyses from the National Weather Service, and on data from state and regional air quality monitors. In general, “no burn” announcements are issued when:
- The Air Quality Index for Massachusetts and nearby areas of upwind states is “moderate” or higher (fine particle concentrations are at or above 12 micrograms/cubic meter) early in the morning,
- The weather forecast is for light winds, which will not mix smoke from fires with cleaner air, allowing the smoke to linger over neighborhoods, and
- Air flow into Massachusetts is coming from the southwest, which draws in polluted air from urban areas south and west of Massachusetts and can raise pollution levels here.
In these conditions, smoke from open burning will add pollution to air that is already polluted, making a bad situation worse. Adults with respiratory conditions (e.g., asthma) and heart problems and children can be especially affected by air pollution.
MassDEP may prohibit open burning in specific fire districts or statewide, depending on the conditions on a particular day.
Where can I find information on air quality conditions in my area?
The MassDEP web site shows air quality forecasts and real-time pollution levels at all of the air monitors across the state that collect data continuously: http://public.dep.state.ma.us/MassAir/Pages/MapCurrent.aspx
Who can I contact at MassDEP to get more information?
Call or email the Open Burning contact in the MassDEP regional office that covers your town
For More Information
With A Permit, Burning of the Following Materials Is Allowed:
- Brush, cane, driftwood, and forestry debris from other than commercial or industrial land clearing operations
- Materials normally associated with the pursuit of agriculture such as, fruit tree prunings, dead raspberry stalks, blueberry patches for pruning purposes, and infected beehives for disease control.
- Trees and brush resulting from agricultural land clearing.
- Fungus infected elm wood, if no other acceptable means of disposal is available.
Burning of the Following Materials Is Prohibited Statewide:
- Brush, trees, cane and driftwood from commercial and/or industrial land clearing operations.
- Grass, hay, leaves and stumps, and tires.
- Construction material and debris
How to Safely Ignite the Fire
- An adult should always be present during open burning and children and pets should be kept at a safe distance away.
- Use paper and kindling to start a fire and add progressively larger pieces of wood. Parts of a leftover Christmas tree may also be used.
- Never use gasoline, kerosene or any other flammable liquid to start a fire! The risk of personal injury in these cases is very high.
- Burn one small pile at a time and slowly add to it. This will help keep the fire from getting out of control.
- Select a location away from utility lines.
Fires Must be Attended Until Completely Extinguished
Do not leave your fire burning unattended. This is a reason to revoke your burning permit.
Fire Control Tools and Water Supply Must Be Present
The water supply can be a pressurized fire extinguisher, a pump can or garden hose. Be sure to test it out before igniting the fire to be sure it works properly. Also, if relying on a garden hose double-check that the water supply is turned on and that there are no cracks in the hose itself. You are required to have a water supply and fire control tools on hand.
Watch the Wind: Be Prepared to Extinguish All Open Burning
It is unsafe to burn during high winds. Use common sense and don’t wait for the fire department to contact you that is has become unsafe to burn. Sudden wind change is the how most open burning gets out of control.
Don’t Delay a Call for Help
If for some reason, the fire should get out of control, call the fire department immediately. Use the utmost caution to prevent injury to yourself or family members or any damage by fire to your home.
Extinguish the Fire Fully
Burn the fire down to the coals, drown them with water, spread them out, then drown them again.
April is the Cruelest Month
April is usually the worst month for brush fires. When snow pack recedes, before new growth emerges, last year’s dead grass, leave and wood are dangerous tinder. Winds also tend to be stronger and more unpredictable during April. Unfortunately many people wait until the warmer weather to conduct open burning.
Prevent Wildfires by Burning During Wet Snowy Conditions
Prevent permit fires from becoming wild land fires by burning early in the season. Wet and snowy winter conditions hinder the rapid spread of fire on or under the ground. Weather conditions and increased fire danger may lead to many days when burning cannot be allowed to take place.
Open Burning Alternatives
Open burning releases large amount of carbon dioxide, other gases and solid substances directly into the air, which can contribute to respiratory problems. Disposal of natural materials is best for the environment when they are used again in a different form. Try chipping or composting tree limbs, brush or forestry debris to use as landscaping materials. Check with your local public works or highway department; many have chippers at their municipal recycling center or transfer station, and with process debris for homeowners.
Mass DEP Air Quality Hotline
The MA Dept. of Environmental Protection regulates open burning in MA and information explaining those regulations on its website. Starting in 2014, you must also be sure air quality conditions are acceptable for burning by calling the MassDEP Air Quality Hotline at (617) 556-1021 or by visiting the MassAir Online Website. Even with a fire department permit in hand, you cannot burn if the air quality is not acceptable.
MassDEP lists 22 communities that do not allow open burning at all: Arlington, Belmont, Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Chelsea, Chicopee, Everett, Fall River, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, Medford, New Bedford, Newton, Somerville, Springfield, Waltham, Watertown, West Springfield, and Worcester.
A Permit is Required from Local Fire Warden/Fire Chief
A permit must be obtained from the local fire warden, usually the local fire chief. Weather conditions can change rapidly, especially in the spring, and fire wardens will determine on a daily basis when it is safe to conduct open burning. If winds kick up or other atmospheric conditions change suddenly, making it unsafe to burn, permits can be rescinded (cancelled).
The open burning must be a minimum of 75 feet from all buildings and must be conducted between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and must take place on the land closest to the source of material to be burned, according to Department of Environmental Protection regulations (310 CMR DEP 7.07).
People conducting illegal burning, or who allow a fire to get out of control, may be held liable for costs of extinguishing a fire, fined, and even imprisoned (MGL c.48 s.13).