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Within the foothill and mountain areas of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, Section 4291 of the California Public Resources Code (PRC 4291) requires the removal of vegetation that could transmit fire from the natural growth to a building or structure.  The purpose is to maintain the properties in a fire safe condition by providing a defensible area should a wildfire occur.

The local fire protection agencies require:

 

  • The clearance 100 feet or more of flammable vegetation from around buildings.  On steeper parcels, please consult with your local forestry or fire protection agency on fire safe clearance requirements.  Insurance companies also have authority to require firebreaks and clearances of more than 100 feet.
  • Maintaining 10 to 15 feet of spacing, both vertically and horizontally, between shrubs, large plants, and trees.
  • Keeping trees trimmed at least 10 feet from any chimney and trim all dead limbs hanging over your house or garage.
  • Removing all needles and leaves from roofs, eaves, and rain gutters.
  • Regular watering and weeding of landscaping to keep it fire safe.
  • Consultation with your local forestry or fire protection agency for additional requirements.

Generally, all open burning is prohibited.  However, District Rule 4106 – Prescribed Burning and Hazard Reduction Burning does allow for the open burning of natural vegetation for maintaining firebreaks around buildings and structures on properties located within the foothill and mountain areas of the District.  The materials to be burned must originate from the property on where it was grown.  Transporting the materials to an off-site location for burning is illegal.   Burn permits are required and may be obtained at your local forestry or fire protection agency office.

PRC 4291 does not require that the vegetation be disposed of by open burning.  The District therefore strongly encourages everyone to consider the alternatives to open burning first, especially if the proposed burn site is in or near smoke sensitive populated areas.  Alternatives include chipping, mulching, composting and recycling through your local landfill or disposal service.  However, if you choose to burn, you may only burn the vegetation that was removed to comply with PRC 4291.

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Hazard Reduction Burn Permits

Burn Permits are required for any open burn and are available through your local forestry or fire protection agency office.  Please read and understand all of the conditions when accepting a burn permit.

 

Any planned burn project involving 10 or more acres or projected to emit more than one ton of PM10 emissions is subject to the Smoke Management Plan requirements of Rule 4106.  Such projects are considered Prescribed Burns may not commence unless a Smoke Management Plan has been submitted and approved by the District.

Burn Days and No-Burn Days

Hazard Reduction Burning is permitted when meteorological conditions are forecasted to be good for smoke dispersal.  Such burning may be conducted on permissive “burn days” during daytime hours, generally from 9:00 AM and no material should be added to an existing fire after 4:00 PM.  Burning at night or on “no burn days” is prohibited.  In addition, your local fire protection agency may impose fire restrictions and prohibit hazard reduction burning due to elevated risk of fire danger.

 

To obtain the daily “Burn Day/No Burn Day” declaration, please telephone the Air District at 1-877-429-2876 (1-877-HAZ-BURN) or visit the District’s website at www.valleyair.org. “Burn Days” and “No Burn Days” for hazard reduction burning are determined and reported daily for areas above and below 3,000 feet elevation for each county within the San Joaquin Valley Air Basin.

 

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Prohibited Materials

District Rule 4106 prohibits the burning any of these materials:

  • Household garbage.
  • Ornamental shrubbery, lawn clippings, and weeds.
  • Vegetable garden residue and family orchard pruning.
  • Lumber, plywood, particleboard, and other manufactured wood products.
  • Painted or stained wood.
  • Roofing materials.
  • Construction or demolition debris.
  • Furniture and mattresses.
  • Plastics.
  • Tires and other rubber products.
  • Paints, solvents, and their containers.
  • Petroleum products, including waste oil, gasoline, and diesel fuel.
  • Electric wire or metal for salvage.
  • Animal carcasses, manure, hay, and animal bedding materials.
  • Anything processed or manufactured.

Burn Barrels

Using a burn barrel to burn any waste material is illegal.

 

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Ignition Devices

Equipment used to ignite open burns is limited to those instruments or materials that will ignite materials without the production of black smoke.  These include liquid petroleum gas (butane or propane) or diesel fuel burners (drip torches), and flares where the device produces a flame and the flame is then used to ignite the material to be burned.  Matches and newspaper may also be used.  The spraying or dousing of any accelerant such as gasoline, diesel, motor oils, or other such materials to ignite open burns is prohibited and extremely dangerous.

Do Not Allow Materials to Smolder

A smoldering fire releases twice the emissions and is a rule violation.  Materials must be dry and loosely stacked or piled.  Adding materials to an existing fire is a way to ensure that it flames quickly and efficiently to consume the materials and minimize visible smoke.

Burning Leaves and Pine Needles

Burning leaves or pine needles can create excessive smoke if not burned properly.  Therefore, burning leaves or pine needles is strongly discouraged. The District encourages you to use non-burning alternatives that may be available to you in your area.  If no alternatives are available, leaves and pine needles may be burned under the following conditions:

  • Leaves and pine needles must be dry.
  • The materials must be loosely stacked or piled, or added to an existing fire in such a manner to ensure that flames quickly and efficiently consume the material.
  • The burn pile cannot be allowed to smolder. A smoldering pile that generates excessive smoke is a rule violation and must be extinguished.
  • Using a propane burner may be helpful with promoting efficient burning.

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Health Effects From Smoke

Smoke contains pollutants that can cause a serious threat to human health. The major pollutants of concern are PM-10 and PM-2.5 (particulate matter less than 10 microns and 2.5 microns in size, respectively). Other pollutants include hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, benzene, aldehydes, and other toxic chemicals.  Immediate health effects from particulate matter include burning and itching eyes, shortness of breath, and asthma attacks.  Long-term exposure increases the chance of cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses, cancer, and premature death. 

 

The EPA publication titled “How Smoke From Fires Can Effect Your Health” can provide you with more information on the health effects from smoke.

Smoke Nuisance

In addition to the health effects, smoke from open burning can cause a nuisance to your neighbors, nearby schools, local businesses, and public areas. Excessive smoke that creates a nuisance is a violation of District rules and will be subject to penalties.   Please be kind and don’t cause a nuisance to your neighbors.

Where to File a Complaint

Call the Air District’s Compliance Department at 1-800-870-1037 to file an excessive smoke or illegal burn complaint.  Be certain to contact the local fire protection agency immediately if there is a threat of a fire escaping control.

 

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Please Observe the Following Guidelines When Preparing to Burn

  • Provide adequate clearance around the fire to avoid its escape.
  • Burn only on permissive “burn days” and during daytime hours.
  • Burn only vegetation removed for maintaining a fire safe area.
  • Be sure that the burn pile is free of all prohibited materials.
  • Make sure that the material has been allowed to dry.
  • Do not use any flammable liquid, such as gasoline or diesel fuel, to ignite a fire.
  • Be sure the burn does not smolder and cause excessive smoke.
  • Do not burn on windy days.
  • Attend the burn at all times until extinguished.
  • Follow the instructions on the burn permit.

Violations and Penalties

Violations of the Air District’s open burning regulations may be subject to civil penalties.  If fire escapes your control you may be held liable for all fire suppression costs and for any property damage caused by the fire. Criminal charges may also apply in certain cases.

Additional Information

For specific information on fire safety, contact your local forestry or fire protection agency, including the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.  For more information about the air regulations and open burning, please contact the Compliance Department of the District.

 

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Summary

  • Hazard Reduction Burning is allowed in the foothill and mountain areas of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.
  • A Hazard Reduction Burn Permit is required and available through your local forestry or fire protection agency offices. 
  • The materials to be burned must originate from the property on where it was grown.  Transporting the materials to an off-site location for burning is illegal.
  • Hazard Reduction Burning is authorized on “burn days”, when meteorological conditions are good for smoke dispersal in specific areas.  Permit holders must call 1-877-429-2876 or access the District’s website at www.valleyair.org to find out whether Hazard Reduction Burning is authorized for the day.
  • “Burn Days” and “No Burn Days” are reported for elevations above and below 3,000 feet for each county.
  • Due to elevated risks of fire danger, the local fire protection agency may impose fire restrictions and prohibit open burning.
  • Use proper and safe ignition devices for starting the burn.  Do not douse gasoline or diesel fuel on a burn pile to ignite a fire.
  • Make sure the fuel has been allowed to dry.  A smoldering fire releases twice the emissions and is a rule violation.
  • Using a burn barrel to burn any material is illegal.
  • Creating a nuisance is a violation subject to penalties.  To file a complaint for excessive smoke or illegal burning, please call the District at 1-800-870-1037.
  • If a fire escapes your control you may be held liable for all fire suppression costs and for any property damage caused by the fire.  Criminal charges may also apply in certain cases.  For fire safety information, please contact your local fire protection agency or the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

 

Should there ever be a threat of any fire escaping control, please call your local fire protection agency immediately.

 

 

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