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Open burning ... what can I burn?

This Web page is for basic information on open burning only! For more information, click here to see the Indiana Department of Environmental Management's Web page about open burning.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management maintains 326 IAC 4-1. This rule covers open burning. Click here to read the complete rule. 

The rule says: "Open burning is prohibited except as allowed in this rule."

So what is allowed?
  • Private residential open burning is allowed where the building contains four or fewer dwelling units. Apartments, condominium complexes, mobile home parks, and businesses may not burn. 

  • A person may burn vegetation from a farm, orchard, nursery, or drainage ditch.

  • Recreational or ceremonial fires are allowed, but cannot be used for disposal purposes.

  • It is always against the law to burn trash such as household waste, plastic, batteries, rubber, diapers, and painted or stained wood.

If you choose to burn, these conditions must always be followed:
  • Fires must be attended at all times during burning until completely extinguished.

  • A fire must be extinguished at any time if it creates a:

    • Pollution problem​

    • Threat to public health

    • Nuisance

    • Fire hazard

  • Burning may not be conducted during unfavorable meteorological conditions, such as high winds, temperature inversions, air stagnation, or when a pollution alert or air quality action day has been declared.​

  • Private residential open burning must be during daylight hours. All fires must be extinguished before sunset. (Recreational or ceremonial fires are allowed after sunset, but cannot be used for disposal purposes.)

  • Private residential open burning must be in a non-combustible container that is sufficiently vented and induce adequate primary combustion, and has enclosed sides and a bottom. A burn barrel is not well vented.

  • Only clean wood products and paper may be burned. "Clean wood products" means wood products, including vegetation, that are not coated with stain, paint, glue, or other coating material.

In Elkhart County, the open burning of leaves and yard ​waste is never advised. Through studies, we have learned how smoke negatively affects clean air and human health. And with so many ways to get involved and reduce leaf burning, you could reduce your exposure to the concerning consequences of leaf burning, such as ...

  • Open burning damages human health

    • All smoke contains pollutants, some can be toxic.

    • Even healthy adults are affected by pollutants in smoke.

    • Smoke is especially harmful for older people, those with lung problems, and pregnant or nursing women.

    • Did you know smoke from burning five pounds of leaves contains about one pound of air pollution?

  • Burning can cause the following health effects:

    • Eye, nose, and throat irritations​

    • Lung irritation and congestion

    • Shortness of breath and coughing

    • Headaches

    • Skin irritations

  • Open burning contributes to harmful ground-level ozone

    • Ground-level ozone, or smog, is a problem in cities and rural areas alike. Chemicals created during open burning react with heat and sunlight to create ground-level ozone.​

    • Ground-level ozone can cause or worsen respiratory, heart, or other health problems. It also deteriorates rubber, corrodes metal, and damages crops and forests.

  • Open burning damages property​

    • Uncontrolled fire is a significant risk for property damage and injuries.​

    • Fire departments are often called to respond to leaf fires that go out of control. 

  • Open burning is a waste of resources

    • Un-burned leaves contain valuable nutrients that you could be using to make free compost or mulch. If you burn your leaves, those nutrients are wasted ... and you waste money by purchasing compost in the spring! You can learn how to make leaf compost by clicking here and reading our educational handout on composting.



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