Outdoor burning: Know the law and heed the rules

COLUMBUS – Ohioans planning to burn debris outdoors this spring are urged by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to use proper safety precautions and follow Ohio’s outdoor-burning laws.

ODNR and Ohio EPA each enforce a different set of outdoor-burning laws for suburban and rural landowners. These laws restrict when, where and if a landowner can burn leaves or other debris.

Concerned with the potential for brush and forest fires, ODNR’s Division of Forestry prohibits outdoor burning in rural areas between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. during the typically dry months of March, April, and May, and in October and November.

Enforcement of this law is primarily in the ODNR Division of Forestry’s fire protection area, which includes the hilly, wooded portions of eastern and southeastern Ohio.

Caused by carelessness.

“On average, Ohio has about 1,000 forest or brush fires every year, burning an estimated three to five acres per fire,” said Ron Abraham, chief of the ODNR Division of Forestry. “In the spring and fall season, Ohio woodlands are especially susceptible to fire. A majority of these wild fires are caused by carelessness and a failure to follow basic rules of safety.”

Ohio EPA, enforcing state and federal pollution-control laws, regulates outdoor burning in both restricted and unrestricted areas.

Restricted areas include land within 1,000 feet of a municipality and areas within a mile of communities larger than 10,000 people. In restricted areas, landowners may burn outdoors only for cooking purposes and some occupational needs.

Landowners in areas outside of restricted areas may burn outdoors for waste purposes as long as specific requirements are met, including the need to be at least 1,000 feet from all inhabited buildings on neighboring properties.

Ohio EPA regulations also prohibit burning without agency permission of rubber, grease, asphalt and petroleum materials at any time during the year.

Burning guidelines.

ODNR offers the following safety tips and guidelines for those planning on burning outdoors:

* Clear the burning site of all flammable materials.

* Use a proper burning container or barrel with a lid.

* Clear a 10-foot area around the burning site.

* Have water and hand tools ready in case fire escapes.

* Avoid burning on windy days.

* Do not burn within 200 feet of any woodland, brushland or field containing dry grass.

* Stay with the fire until it is out.

* Take all responsible precautions.

For specific information on burning laws, contact the ODNR Division of Forestry at 614-265-6694 or the Ohio EPA’s Division of Air Pollution Control at 614-644-2270.

Individuals intending to do any open burning are also advised to consult local ordinances.

A copy of Ohio EPA’s Before You Light It: Know Ohio’s Open Burning Regulations is available on the OEPA Web site at www.epa.state.oh.us/pic/facts/openburn.html.

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