Guide to Open Burning in Delaware

The State Fire Prevention Commission of the State of Delaware takes all things associated with the environment very seriously. The people of Delaware enjoy a relaxing, outdoor fire as much as residents in any other state. But there are rules regarding open burning that Delaware residents must obey. It is important that Delaware residents remember that these laws are created for their protection, as well as for the protection of the environment.

State-Wide Burning Ban

Sussex County was a part of Delaware that used to have its own rules on open burning of wood or any other materials. Recently, Sussex County signed on to the state-wide open burning ban that runs from May 1st to September 1st of each year. That means that there can be no open fires burned anywhere in the state of Delaware during that five-month time period.

The Ozone Season

That five-month burning ban was not chosen at random. The time from May to September is known as the "Ozone Season" throughout the state of Delaware. The Delaware Division of Waste and Hazardous Substances defines "Ozone Season" as that time of the year when the increased temperatures and exposure to sunlight can mix with low-lying pollution to create a dangerous form of ground-level ozone.

This mixture of pollutants, dangerous chemicals and haze from the atmosphere create a dangerous smog that causes health issues for everyone, but especially for the very young and the very old. By eliminating open burning, there is less smoke and other airborne particles to create the dangerous ozone.

What is Open Burning?

The Division of Waste and Hazardous Substances defines open burning as any kind of outdoor burning process that produces smoke, with the exception of incinerators and outdoor heaters that employ a burning process.

Burning Landscaping Debris

August and September are usually the months when people start to clean up their yards and prepare for the fall. Some people may think that they can burn leaves when the open burning ban ends on September 1st, but the burning of leaves is banned in the state of Delaware all year round.

Residents who collect old branches and landscaping trimmings from bushes and trees can burn that debris with an open fire from October 1st until April 1st of each year. It should be noted that the outdoor burning of garbage and other non-landscape related refuse is explicitly banned in the state of Delaware all year round.

Open Burning Activities

Each resident may have his own definition of "open burning," so the state of Delaware has developed a list of five burning methods that it considers to be open burning and banned during the "Ozone Season"

- Backyard Debris Fires

Homeowners who try to burn any kind of debris in their backyards during the banned months will be considered to be in violation of the open burning ban. This includes the burning of wood, grass clippings and paper.

- Group Gatherings

While it may be popular to have a group of friends over to enjoy an open fire pit during the summertime in the state of Delaware, it is also illegal. The open burning ban covers and kind of open fire pit, large barbeque fire pits and any pre-constructed fire pits that sit on patios, decks or porches.

- Destruction of Demolition Debris

Contractors are not allowed to burn demolition debris with open burning during the banned months. Contractors who need to burn the debris from their demolition or construction projects are encouraged to contact licensed incinerators to have the burning done legally.

- Controlled Land Fires

The state of Delaware does not allow open burning that is used for land management purposes during the banned months. This includes controlled fires designed to manage forested areas and any residential properties that may utilize controlled burns to prevent property damage due to wild fires.

- Farm Land Burns

Some farmers will clear their fields using open burning. But this activity is not allowed during the banned months. This includes the process of removing crop residue or trying to revitalize a stretch of farm land.

It is important to note that that State Fire Marshall could issue an open burning ban for the months that run from October to April for a variety of reasons. Anyone who plans on doing an open burn during the months where they are typically allowed should contact the Office of the State Fire Marshall for the state of Delaware to check for any bans on open burning that may be in effect.

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