Open Burning

When you burn trash outdoors, the potential cost to your health, your home, your neighbors and the environment far exceeds the cost of adequate collection services. Protect yourself, your family, your neighbors and your wallet by knowing the rules - what can you burn and where?

Remember, there may be better and cheaper alternatives to open burning.

Questions may be addressed to the Department at 701-328-5153, or email Liz Trythall (

Open burning is:
The burning of any matter in such a manner that products of combustion resulting from the burning are emitted directly into the ambient (surrounding outside) air without passing through an adequate stack, duct or chimney.

North Dakota Administrative Code 33.1-15-01.26

Generally, anytime you light a fire outdoors, you are open burning. The rules pertaining to open burning are contained in Chapter 33.1-15-04 of the North Dakota Air Pollution Control Rules (for further information view Guide to the Demolition, Disposal and Open Burning of Abandoned Houses).

Should you need to burn oil that has spilled, a separate application for the open burning of liquid hydrocarbons must be filled out and submitted to the Department prior the burning of the spilled materials. Burning of liquid hydrocarbons can be conducted prior to submitting the application and prior to receiving approval only in emergency situations.

If a spill has occurred, submit an Environmental Incident Report.

Open burning can be a waste management issue as well as an air quality concern. Below are several guidelines for burning waste from the Division of Waste Management within the Department.

Air Quality Issues Regarding Proper Disposal of Animals with Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

No person may conduct, cause or permit the conduct of a salvage operation by open burning, and the burning of refuse and other combustible material by open burning is generally restricted. However, there are some categories of permissible open burning; some of these are as follows:

  • Fires for the instruction and training of firefighting personnel
  • Fires set for the elimination of a fire hazard.
  • Fires set for the removal of dangerous or hazardous material.
  • Campfires and other fires for the outdoor preparation of food.
  • Agricultural crop burning.
  • Land clearing and right-of-way maintenance.

Some of these categories require prior Department approval or notification. Please refer to Section 33.1-15-04-02 for clarification and additional categories.

In order to legally burn any material that is not specifically listed as permissible, an application for open burning variance (SFN-8509) must be signed by the local or district health unit and the city or rural fire department prior to submittal to the Department. No burning of trade waste or materials that generate hazardous air pollutants such as rubber products (tires), tar paper, asphalt shingles, plastics or treated wood products will be approved. Alternatives to burning must be investigated and the request to burn must be fully justified. Cost of alternative disposal is not sufficient justification by itself. Not all variance applications are approved.

Regardless of whether or not the burning is permissible under the rules or whether a variance to open burn has been issued, all open burning must comply with all of the conditions contained in Subsection 33.1-15-04.2. Some of these conditions are as follows:

  • No public nuisance is or will be created.
  • No occupied building may be impacted by air contaminants from the burning.
  • No traffic hazards can be created.
  • The burning must be attended and supervised at all times.

Application for Open Burning Variance—SFN 8509
Request for Approval to Open Burn (Rx Burn)—SFN 60925
Prescribed Burning Summary—SFN 60924

For a complete listing of all conditions, please refer to Chapter 33.1-15-04 of the North Dakota Air Pollution Control Rules. These conditions are included as an attachment to any variance to open burn issued by this Department.

The North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality has the legal authority to enforce the open burning laws. Violations can result in substantial penalties. If you have any questions, contact your local health unit or the Division of Air Quality of the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality at 701-328-5188. To report a suspected illegal open burning incident, contact the local public health unit listed or your local law enforcement agency.

Last Updated: 06/14/2023