Open Burning by Fire Companies

Fire companies in Delaware are allowed to conduct certain open burning activities, including assisting farmers with agricultural burning and the intentional burning of structures for the purposes of firefighting instruction.

The Department will stop accepting applications for open burning starting April 24, 2024, to allow time for site inspections needed to approve or deny existing applications before the start of the ozone season burning ban (May 1 through Sept. 30). This does not affect already-submitted applications. The Department will accept new applications for open burning starting Sept. 1, 2024.

Burning structures in order to dispose of them is strictly prohibited in Delaware. However, property owners sometimes donate buildings and other standing structures to fire companies for the purpose of conducting live firefighting training for company members. These training exercises help firefighters develop their skills in battling blazes and rescuing those in need.

Occasionally, fire companies are asked to conduct the burning of crop residue, field perimeter maintenance material, or land clearing material from the establishment of agricultural operations for safety reasons. These types of burns are allowed and do not require any paperwork from the fire company. However, they are considered agricultural burns, and require paperwork from the property owner.

Open burning by fire companies in Delaware is strictly limited to Delaware fire companies.

Applications and notifications required for burning in Delaware are managed through the DNREC ePermitting system, which offers online applications and allows users to manage their own portfolio of permits.

Appraisal and Preparation

Before a structure can be used for live firefighting instruction, it must be appraised for its condition and training value by the fire company. The structure must be standing. It must allow for valuable training exercises. And the fire company must be in need of training at that time.

The structure must be emptied of all contents before being burned. This means removing all building fixtures such as hot water heaters, boilers and air conditioning units; all materials including household appliances and furnishings such as furniture, rugs and window treatments; and refuse including clothing, toys, garbage, demolition debris and vegetative debris. In addition, no vegetative debris may be piled up around the exterior of the building to be burned alongside the structure.

Asbestos Removal

Once the fire company has confirmed their desire to train on the structure, the property owner must have the structure inspected for asbestos. Asbestos inspections in Delaware are performed by certified asbestos professional service firms.

If no asbestos is found by the certified asbestos professional service firm, a copy of the State of Delaware Asbestos Inspection Form and initial asbestos inspection report must then be given to the fire company to be uploaded into DNREC’s ePermitting System. A Notification of Demolition or Renovation must also be completed by the fire company using the ePermitting System.

If asbestos is found by the certified asbestos professional service firm, any asbestos-containing material must be removed by a certified asbestos abatement company. The certified asbestos abatement company must complete a Notification of Demolition or Renovation using DNREC’s ePermitting System before work begins. This applies to all structures being trained on, including residential buildings, which may ordinarily be exempt from the reporting requirement.

There is a mandatory waiting period of ten business days, following this submission of the Notification of Demolition or Renovation, before any damage may be conducted on the structure, including training exercises or asbestos abatement activities (if asbestos was discovered).

After the waiting period has ended, any asbestos-containing material may finally be removed by the certified asbestos abatement company. There must be a follow-up inspection to verify that all asbestos-containing material has been removed.

A dataset of companies certified by the State of Delaware to perform asbestos inspections and removal is available on the Delaware Open Data Portal. Companies are listed by certification type:

  • Professional Service Firms perform asbestos inspections
  • Class A Contractors perform all types of asbestos abatement services
  • Class B Contractors are limited to removing roofing and/or siding that contains asbestos

Once the structure is verified as free of asbestos, the property owner must provide copies of the State of Delaware Asbestos Inspection Form, initial asbestos inspection report, final asbestos inspection report, abatement work completion statement, and waste manifesto to the fire company to be uploaded into DNREC’s ePermitting System.

Application for Demolition via Firefighting Instruction

Once the Appraisal and Asbestos Removal are complete, the fire company must submit an application for demolition via firefighting instruction and receive approval from the DNREC Division of Air Quality. Application is made online through the DNREC ePermitting system.

All structures to be demolished via firefighting instruction require their own application, regardless if they are co-located on the same property and are considered separate independent training opportunities.

The fire company must wait to burn until their application has been processed and approved. The applicant will receive authorization through email once written approval has been issued.

The fire company must select a specific date for the burn as part of their application. Applications without a date selected will not be processed or approved.

If for any reason the demolition via firefighting instruction cannot occur on the planned date, it may be rescheduled as long as burning has not started. The date can be changed by the applicant logging in to the ePermitting system and updating the information before 11:59 p.m. on the approved burning date.

If the fire company has started burning and needs additional days to complete their burn, a new application and approval will be needed.

Restrictions and Details

County Fire Boards

New Castle County

Kent County

Sussex County

Burning is only allowed between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. There is also a limit to the number of structures that may be burned in a calendar year. Please contact the Division of Air Quality for more information.

Before conducting an instructional burn, the local county fire board must be notified and informed of the approval number.

Seasonal Restrictions

Open burning is prohibited statewide during the ozone season, from May 1 through Sept. 30 each year.

Open burning is also prohibited on air quality action days when the State’s air quality has been forecast by the regional Air Quality Partnership (AQP) to be unhealthy. This includes days on which an approval may have already been granted. Forecasts are provided on this website and also 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 forecasted prohibiting open burning activity.

The Delaware State Fire Marshal may also 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.