B.C. Air Quality

Regulations and Bylaws on Outdoor Burning

Nearly all outdoor burning in B.C. requires some type of authorization (permission). Considerations associated with obtaining permission to burn or incinerate under the Environmental Management Act (EMA) can be found on the Burning Requirements Factsheet (PDF).

The Open Burning Smoke Control Regulation sets the rules about outdoor (open) burning, with respect to what can and can't be burned, and when open burning can take place. The regulation is meant to encourage the reduction and reuse of vegetative debris from large outdoor fires that are usually set for land-clearing, construction or forestry operations. Note that the Ministry of Environment is reviewing and revising this regulation. See Proposed Changes to the Open Burning Smoke Control Regulation.

Local governments have the power to set bylaws to control (back)yard burning, campfires and beach fires within their boundaries. A growing number of municipalities have passed their own bylaws that ban backyard burning and other kinds of burning. For more information on municipal burning bylaws, see Inventory of Air Quality Bylaws in British Columbia for Anti-Idling, Open Burning and Wood-Burning Appliances (PDF: 1017 KB/197 pages), and Review of Open Burning Bylaws on Vancouver Island (PDF: 150 KB/25 pages).

The Ministry of Environment created a model bylaw on backyard burning in December 1997. Municipalities can use this model to draft a specific bylaw to limit or prohibit backyard burning. See the Model Municipal Bylaw for Regulating Backyard Burning (PDF: 131 KB/18 pages).

Other B.C. regulations dealing with smoke and burning are the Wood Residue Burner and Incinerator Regulation (beehive burners) and the Solid Fuel Burning Domestic Appliance Regulation (wood stoves). The Ministry of Environment is reviewing and revising the Solid Fuel Burning Domestic Appliance Regulation. See Proposed Changes to the Solid Fuel Burning Domestic Appliance Regulation.

Below are the current requirements set by the Open Burning Smoke Control Regulation. For more details see A Guide to the Open Burning Smoke Control Regulation.

What Can't I Burn?

To prevent the release of dangerous toxins, the following materials must not be burned:

  • animal carcasses and waste from animal slaughtering;
  • asphalt or asphalt products;
  • batteries;
  • biomedical waste;
  • carpets;
  • construction waste other than lumber that has not been treated with wood preservatives or other chemicals and is not coated with paint, varnish, oil or other finishing material;
  • demolition waste;
  • drywall;
  • domestic waste;
  • electrical wire;
  • fibreglass and other fibre-reinforced polymers;
  • fuel and lubricant containers;
  • furniture and appliances;
  • hazardous waste;
  • manure;
  • paint and varnish;
  • plastics;
  • polystyrene foam;
  • railway ties;
  • rubber;
  • tar paper;
  • tires;
  • treated or painted wood products;
  • used oil

When Can I Burn?

In many areas of the province the following conditions apply to when you can burn:

  • The smoke-release period for each parcel of land must not be greater than 72 consecutive hours.
  • Open burning of debris may proceed if no open burning has occurred on the parcel of land at any time during the 15 days preceding the open burning.
  • Smoke may be released during open burning on a parcel of land on no more than four separate occasions during a calendar year.

Where Can I Burn?

The following restrictions apply to the location for open burning:

  • The open burning of debris must be carried out at least:
    • (a) 100 metres from neighbouring residences and businesses, and
    • (b) 500 metres from schools in session, hospitals and facilities used for continuing care as defined under the Continuing Care Act.
  • Strategies and techniques must be employed so that the smoke from open burning of debris does not pose a hazard at airports or on provincial highways by significantly reducing visibility.
  • Open burning of debris must not be initiated if the local air flow will cause the smoke to have a negative impact on a nearby population or cause pollution.
  • Unless otherwise exempted for smoke management purposes by a Ministry of Forests burning permit or in a burn plan approved by the Ministry of Forests, open burning of debris must not be initiated if atmospheric mixing at the site where the debris is to be burned is insufficient to provide rapid dispersion of the smoke.

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