Open Burning

Most open burning is prohibited in Delaware from May 1 through September 30, typically referred to as “Ozone Season.” Exemptions include camping, cooking, and ceremonial fires. Delaware’s Open Burning Regulations prohibit certain types of burning at all times, and provide guidance for authorized burning under specific conditions.

The Delaware State Fire Marshal may issue a ban against open burning activity in individual counties or statewide.

The National Weather Service may issue a red flag warning against open burning activity due to unfavorable weather conditions that may result in dangerous fire conditions.

Air Quality Action Days

All open burning is prohibited on Air Quality Action days when Delaware’s air quality has been forecast as unhealthy by the Regional Air Quality Partnership. This includes any burning activity which may have been previously approved. Days with unhealthy air quality are designated Code Orange or Code Red, based on the severity of the warning.

The Regional Air Quality Partnership, administered by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, provides air quality forecasts for ground level ozone and fine particulate matter (PM2.5). Ozone forecasts are available from May through September on both the DNREC website and by calling the Air Quality Partnership Information Line at 1-800-872-7261.

Check the forecast daily and take the proper actions to determine if an Action Day has been forecast that bans open burning.

Delaware Open Burning Regulations

Always Prohibited

Burning waste and garbage.

Burning fallen leaves and grass clippings.

Burning material generated from land clearing, except for agriculture.

Delaware’s Open Burning Regulations (7 DE Admin. Code, 1113) define open burning as any outdoor fire or outdoor smoke producing process from which the products of combustion are emitted directly into the ambient air. This does not include incinerators, boilers, or heaters used in process operations.

Five types of open burning activities are allowed by Delaware’s Open Burning Regulation when not prohibited by time of year, air quality condition, the State Fire Marshal, or National Weather Service:

  • Residential burning of small amounts of yard/garden material by a homeowner.
  • Recreational burning such as cooking fires, campfires, patio fire pits or ceremonial bonfires by organized groups.
  • Demolition of structures by intentional burning for the purposes of firefighting instruction.
  • Prescribed burning for forest and land management.
  • Agricultural burning for crop residue, field maintenance and land clearing for agricultural operations.

Open Burning Approvals and Notifications

County Fire Boards

New Castle County

Kent County

Sussex County

Written approval and/or notification may be required before beginning the burning activity.

Homeowners do not require written approval to burn. However, they must notify their county fire board before burning cut or fallen branches, limbs, or shrubbery from their residence, unless the fire is recreational. (See A Citizens’ Guide to Residential Open Burning).

Fire companies must obtain written approval prior to initiating any fire training exercises that may damage a structure via firefighting instruction. Before such training, the property owner of the structure must have it inspected for asbestos by a certified asbestos inspector, followed by notification to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 3-Philadelphia office. The notification must include the results of the initial inspection, and must be received at least 10 working days prior to any activity which may damage the structure, including the removal of any asbestos-containing material. After the 10-day period has expired, any asbestos must be removed by a certified asbestos abatement contractor, and the structure must be re-inspected by a certified asbestos inspector in order to confirm that all asbestos-containing materials have indeed been removed.

Land owners and forest management officials must obtain written approval prior to initiating a prescribed burn event, and notify their county fire board.

Farmers must obtain written approval before initiating an agricultural burn, and notify their county fire board.

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