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Open Burning Permits

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General Permitting FAQs

What is open burning?

Open burning is the combustion of any matter in the open or in an open dump [415 ILCS 5/3.300].

 

Open burning permits are issued for the following burning activities:

    Fire Fighter Training/Fire Extinguisher Training

    Landscape Waste with Air Curtain Destructor

    Prairie & Ecological Landscape Burns

    Disaster Debris Open Burning

 

The applicant must complete and submit the appropriate application form.

What is the Illinois law on open burning?

Open burning is generally prohibited in Illinois unless there is a statutory exemption provided in the Environmental Protection Act (e.g., burning of landscape wastes upon the premises where it is produced) or unless there is an exemption provided for in the Illinois Pollution Control Board’s (Board) Part 237 rules. (e.g., agricultural wastes, household wastes and landscape wastes). Except for the burning of landscape waste, the exceptions authorized by the Board regulations are subject to the prohibition against air pollution. In addition, the exceptions provide for certain restrictions, including meteorological conditions and reasonable times/places and manner.

 

A common example of open burning that frequently occurs is the burning of landscape wastes. Landscape wastes, including trees, tree trimmings, branches, stumps, brush, weeds, leaves, grass, shrubbery, and yard trimmings may be open burned upon the premises where it is produced or at sites provided and supervised by any unit of local government, except within any county having a population of more than 400,000. The regulations identify certain prohibited areas where the open burning of landscape wastes is not allowed, however, a later enactment by the Illinois General Assembly to Section 9(f) of the Environmental Protection Act appear to nullify these requirements.

 

Burning of household waste (not including garbage) is allowed only on the premises where it is generated and outside any “restricted area” (defined as any city, village, or incorporated township plus a zone extending one mile beyond the boundaries when there is a population of 1,000 or more). Household waste is defined as waste generated from a single-family home. Household waste does not include landscape waste, garbage (food waste and diapers), trade waste (construction debris, roofing materials), appliances and other wastes not associated with domiciliary activities.

 

The other category of open burning that is commonly permissible is the burning of agricultural wastes, which must occur on the premises where the waste is generated but not in restricted areas. Such wastes include refuse that is generated on a farm or ranch by common crop or livestock production practices, including dry bedding and crop residues.

 

Miscellaneous requirements of the Part 237 regulations authorizing open burning include the burning of fuels for recreational use. Campfires and bonfires are allowed either on private property or in public areas where specified. In addition, the open burning of garbage is prohibited in Illinois.

 

Note: State law does not override local prohibitions or limitations on open burning.

Who regulates open burning?

The Illinois Pollution Control Board (Board) and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Illinois EPA or Agency) regulate open burning.

 

Pursuant to 415 ILCS 5/9(c): No person shall cause or allow the open burning of refuse, conduct any salvage operation by open burning, or cause or allow the burning of any refuse in any chamber not specifically designed for the purpose and approved by the Agency…except that the Board may adopt regulations permitting open burning of refuse in certain cases.

 

Local (counties or municipalities, i.e., villages, towns, or cities) authorities/governments may also regulate open burning in areas where they have jurisdiction. Local ordinances may be more restrictive and may require independent permitting requirements. Local ordinances may require that additional permits be obtained.

 

What about burning business or trade waste?

The open burning of wastes generated by a business (also known as trade wastes) is generally illegal in the state of Illinois. A business owner can open burn its own landscape waste that is generated on the property of the business and may also burn agricultural waste if the business is a farm or ranch that is engaged in crop and livestock production practices.

Where do I go to find open burning permit applications?

Permit applications are located at Open Burning Permit Forms.

Are there standard conditions that must be followed when burning pursuant to an open burning permit?

Yes, these "Standard Conditions for Open Burning" are found in the IEPA Bureau of Air form APC-171.

Is there a fee for open burning permits?

No. Open burning permits may be obtained free of cost.

Where do I send in my open burning permit application?

Open burning permit applications may be mailed to:

 

Illinois EPA, Bureau of Air
1021 N. Grand Ave East, MC #11
P.O. Box 19276
Springfield, IL 62794-9276

When can I expect to receive my open burning permit?

The Illinois EPA has ninety (90) days by law to issue open burning permits.

Do I need a separate permit for each burn site?

Permit applicants may apply for multiple burn locations under a single permit application.

When does my open burning permit expire?

Permits are typically issued for a term of one year, after which time they expire.

How do I renew my open burning permit?

The renewal application should be sent to the Illinois EPA at least 90 days prior to expiration of the current permit.

Illinois Laws and Regulations on Open Burning Allow the Following Activities Without a Permit:

  • Campfires and bonfires are allowed on private property and in public areas where specified.

The Following Activities are Never Allowed or Permitted:

  • Open burning of waste by a business (trade waste) is illegal (except for landscape waste generated to maintain the property and agricultural waste generated on the property under limited circumstances).

  • Open burning of garbage (i.e., food, food scraps and diapers), construction/demolition debris, tires, and materials containing asbestos is always prohibited.


  • Open burning of agricultural waste can be limited to locations outside of restricted areas (i.e., not within the boundaries of any municipality, plus a zone extending one mile beyond the same.). 
  • Local ordinances may be more restrictive.

Firefighter training/fire extinguisher training

An Open Burning Permit must be obtained from the Illinois EPA for firefighter or fire extinguisher training.

Structures donated for Firefighter Training/Fire Extinguisher Training must be free-standing establishments. Structures already demolished and/or piled structural debris are not recommended for donation to fire departments because they may lack the desired conditions for combustibility.

Structures are required to have an asbestos and lead inspection to demonstrate to the Illinois EPA's satisfaction that such materials will not pose a serious detrimental effect upon adjacent properties or their occupants. All asbestos containing materials must be removed prior to the burn.

Prairie & Ecological Landscape Burns

Prescribed burning means the planned application of fire to natural or planted vegetative fuels under specified environmental conditions and following appropriate precautionary measures, which cause the fire to be confined to a predetermined area and accomplish the planned land management or ecological objectives – pursuant to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (Illinois DNR).

It is recommended that "prescribed" burns be conducted between October 1 and April 30 - the time frame established for prescribed burns in central Illinois by Illinois DNR.

Burn Managers should develop a prescribed burn plan and submit the plan with the open burning application. Example plans are available from Illinois Department of Natural Resources, or Natural Resources Conservation Services.

  • An Open Burning Permit must be obtained from the Illinois EPA.
  • Local ordinances may be more restrictive and may require additional permits. Please check with the county and unit of local government where the prescribed burn will occur.

Prescribed Burning and Smoke Management

Prescribed burning should be conducted in accordance with Illinois EPA approved permit conditions and follow applicable standard conditions, as well as any special conditions outlined in the Open Burning Permit.

Smoke Management: For the purpose of Smoke Management, "prescribed" burns managed for resource benefits should be conducted in accordance with guidance outlined in the Illinois Smoke Management Program. Smoke management components in burn plans should include:

  • Actions to minimize prescriptive emissions and smoke,
  • Methods for evaluating smoke dispersion, including using National Weather Service daily fire weather planning forecast information and a dispersion index,
  • Public notifications and exposure reduction procedures, and
  • Air quality monitoring of sensitive receptors.

Prescribed Burn Managers in non-attainment areas of the state should use the Air Quality Index to monitor daily air quality conditions and delay burning on “Orange” or worse “Air Pollution Action Days”.

For prescribed fire training opportunities and more information on the IL Prescribed Burning Act and the Illinois Smoke Management Plan, please visit the Illinois Prescribed Fire Council website or email the Council.

Agricultural Waste

Agricultural waste is any refuse generated on site on a farm or ranch by crop and livestock production practices including such items as bags, cartons, dry bedding, structural materials, and crop residues - excluding garbage, dead animals, buildings, corn cribs, and landscape waste.

Agriculture waste may be burned if the following criteria are met:

  • Open burning is restricted to the site where the waste is generated. (35 Ill. Adm. Code 237.120 (a)(1))
  • Open burning is not allowed in restricted areas.
  • Restricted area is any city, village, or incorporated township plus a zone extending one mile beyond the boundaries when there is a population of 1,000 or more. (35 Ill. Adm. Code 237.101)
  • Open burning is prohibited if it hampers visibility on roadways, railroad tracks, or airfields.
  • Open burning must be more than 1,000 feet from residential or other populated areas.
  • The owner/operator must show that no reasonable and economic alternative method of disposal is available. (35 Ill. Adm. Code 237.120(a)(6))
  • Local ordinances may be more restrictive.

Landscape Waste

Landscape waste is leaves, grass, tree limbs, shrubbery cuttings, and other materials accumulated as the result of the care of lawns, shrubbery, vines, and trees.

Is it illegal to burn leaves in Illinois?

There is no state law or regulatory ban on leaf burning. However, whether leaf-burning is permissible depends on the local laws and ordinances. Units of local governments have the authority to impose limitations on burning landscape waste including limiting the hours when such burning may occur, types of material allowed, as well as a total ban of open burning (e.g., leaf-burning ban). 

While there are no state laws that prohibit open burning of landscape waste, some restrictions do exist. Leaves may only be burned on the premises where they are generated or at sites provided or supervised by a local government, except within any municipality having a population of more than 400,000. In addition, certain restrictions, including meteorological conditions and reasonable times/places and manner must be observed.

Commercial/Trade Waste

Commercial waste (or trade waste) is waste generated by a business, industry, and government institutions.

  • It is illegal to burn commercial waste in the state of Illinois, except for landscape and agriculture waste generated on the property and under limited circumstances.
  • Local ordinances may be more restrictive.

Disaster Debris

What is Disaster Debris?

Disaster debris is tree limbs, brush, natural wood and plant debris, agricultural waste (bags, cartons, dry bedding, structural materials and crop residue), canvass sandbags, clean wood building debris, and lumber that is caused by a disaster.

 

Disaster debris may be burned if the following criteria are met:

 

    • If the Governor of Illinois or the President of the United States declares a major disaster. (20 ILCS 3305/11)


    • The area(s) in which the major disaster has been declared are defined. (20 ILCS 3305/11)


    • Once a disaster is declared, open burning of disaster debris may occur through the Disaster Area Open Burning Permit Application process along with adherence to local laws and regulations.

Does the burning of all disaster debris require an open burning permit?

No, Landscape and agricultural waste caused by a disaster may be burned without a permit provided that the wastes are located on the site where they were generated or, in the case of landscape waste, burned at sites provided and supervised by local government.

When is a permit required when burning disaster debris?

The following types of disaster debris REQUIRE an open burning permit:

 

  • Clean wood building debris, lumber, canvas sandbags and other debris – regardless of site where such waste is generated. The open burning of tires or asbestos containing materials is not allowed.
  • Under the Emergency Power Act, the Governor of Illinois may suspend the requirements for a permit and siting when an area has been declared a disaster.
  • Note:  If using an Air Curtain Destructor in the open burning of disaster debris, the owner or operator must obtain an open burning permit from the Illinois EPA for the device pursuant to 35 Ill. Adm. Code Part 237 and comply with the requirements for local siting, if applicable, as set forth in Section 39.2 of the Environmental Protection Act (415 ILCS 5/39.2). 

Is a Disaster Area Open Burning Permit always required during declared disasters?

Unless otherwise indicated above, or the requirement for such permits is suspended by the Governor of Illinois, open burning permits are required from the Illinois EPA during times of declared disasters.

 

Local governments may likewise exempt all or part of local prohibitions and local permit requirements during declared disasters. Local governments cannot suspend the requirement to obtain an open burning permit from the Illinois EPA.

 

Units of local government can apply for multiple burn locations under a single permit application and are encouraged to do so.

 

Applicants other than units of local government can also apply for multiple burn locations under a single permit if the applicant provides proof in the application that the proposed activities have been coordinated with the unit of local government and the local Fire Protection District.

 

If permit is required, complete a Disaster Area Open Burning Permit Application Form.

 

The Illinois EPA typically issues Disaster Area Open Burning Permits within 1 - 2 days after receipt of the application; however, upon request the Illinois EPA can expedite permits in the event of an emergency.

 

Disaster Area Open Burning Permits are typically issued for a short period (e.g., covering from 30 to 90 days) after which time they expire.

 

General Conditions for the Open Burning of Disaster Debris

 

  1. Coordinate the burn with the local Fire Protection District.
  2. Conduct the burn when the wind is blowing away from roadways, railroad tracks, airfields, and populated areas.
  3. Provide on-site supervision of the burn location.
  4. Burning occurs only from approximately 9 am to 6 pm to get the best natural smoke dispersion conditions

Resources

Contact Information

For further information, or if you have any questions, please contact the Open Burn Permit Analyst in the Bureau of Air Permit Section at EPA.BOA.OpenBurning@illinois.gov.