Answers to frequently asked questions about using this site.

How do I activate my burn permit?

To activate your burn permit, log into your account and hit the activate burn button on your approved burn permit. You must have an open burning permit in order to activate a burn. If you do not, apply for a permit here.

How do I know if it’s safe to burn?

The website homepage will be updated when burning is not allowed, and you will not be able to activate a permit if conditions are unsafe.

When can I apply for an open burning permit?

Open burning applications open each year in November.

Do I need an open burning permit for my fire pit or chimnea?

The North Reading Fire Department allows the use of Fire Pits, Chimineas or an outdoor fireplace without an open burning permit provided the following conditions are met:

• The Fire must be small and manageable, no greater than 3 feet in diameter. By definition, a fire larger than 3 feet is no longer
considered a cooking fire.

• All fires must be constantly attended by a competent person until extinguished. (18 or older)

• A water supply or an extinguisher capable of extinguishing the fire must be within 75 feet of the fire.

• The Fire Pit, Chiminea, or fireplace will be on a non-combustible surface at grade level and not under any type of overhang, roof or canopy

• Fires will not be located within 25 feet of a structure or combustible material and any condition that could cause fire to spread within this area will be removed prior to ignition.

• The fire and/or smoke cannot pose a hazard to any property.

• The Smoke from any device cannot create a nuisance or health hazard to the neighborhood.

• Finally common sense must be used!!! A screen should be used to prevent embers from igniting nearby combustibles. Never use flammable fluids to start your fire. Only ordinary firewood is to be burned: No construction debris, leaves, household trash, hazardous waste, or chemicals may burned at anytime.

If the North Reading Fire Department is called to your house for any type of outside fire, we reserve the right to order any fire be extinguished at the officer’s discretion. The above rules do not affect the rules pertaining to permitted open burning season.

How do I know if my permit has been approved?

You will receive an email at the email address you entered at registration with your permit approval information.

I logged into my account but don’t see my burn permit.

It could be that you registered for the site, but did not apply for a permit, Visit the Get a Permit link to apply for your permit.

Open Burning Permits & Restrictions

The Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) and your local fire department limit open burning for public health and safety reasons. Learn when and where open burning is allowed, and how to do it safely.

Open Burning is Allowed from January 15 to May 1

Open burning is allowed from mid winter to early spring across most of Massachusetts. It is prohibited in 22 densely built and populated cities and towns. The following information is compiled from the Open Burning Safety page on the Mass.gov website.

Burning Requirements

If open burning is allowed in your community, contact your local fire department to obtain an open burning permit in advance.

State fire wardens determine each day whether conditions are safe for open burning. Weather and air quality can change rapidly, especially in the spring, and fire departments can rescind permits when that happens.

Open burning must be done:

  • Between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. from January 15 to May 1
  • At least 75 feet from all buildings
  • As close as possible to the source of material being burned
  • When air quality is acceptable for burning. Call the MassDEP Air Quality Hotline at (800) 882-1497 or visit MassAir Online to find out if it is.
  • Communities where open burning is prohibited at all times: Arlington, Belmont, Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Chelsea, Chicopee, Everett, Fall River, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, Malden, Medford, New Bedford, Newton, Somerville, Springfield, Waltham, Watertown, West Springfield, Worcester
What Can I Burn?

You are allowed to burn:

  • Brush, cane, driftwood and forestry debris (but not from commercial or industrial land clearing)
  • Agricultural materials including fruit tree and bush prunings, raspberry stalks, and infected bee hives for disease control.
  • Trees and brush from agricultural land clearing
  • Fungus-infected elm wood, if no other acceptable means of disposal is available

You may not burn:

  • Leaves
  • Brush, trees, cane or driftwood from commercial or industrial land clearing
  • Grass, hay, leaves, stumps or tires
  • Construction materials or demolition debris
  • Household trash
What Times are Best for Open Burning?

You can help prevent wildland fires by burning early in the season. Wet and snowy winter conditions help hinder the rapid spread of fire on or under the ground.

Changing weather conditions and increased fire danger in spring can lead to many days when open burning is not allowed.

April is usually the worst month for brush fires. When snow recedes, but before new growth emerges, last year’s dead grass, leaves and wood are dangerous tinder. Winds also tend to be strong and unpredictable in April.

What are the Alternatives to Open Burning?

While still allowed in most Massachusetts towns and cities, open burning has disadvantages.

The combustion process releases carbon dioxide, other gases, and solid substances directly into the air. This can make it difficult for people with respiratory problems to breathe. It can also cause smoke and odor nuisance conditions for neighbors.

Disposing of natural materials is never as good for the environment as recycling them. Ask your public works or solid waste department if your community chips or composts natural debris into landscaping material.

What Other Types of Outdoor Fires are Allowed?

With the fire department’s approval and supervision, a community may schedule:

  • Christmas tree burning between December 26 and January 7 (although recycling trees or “planting” them in dunes to control beach erosion are more beneficial to the environment)
  • One ceremonial bonfire each year to observe a municipal, state or national event
  • A bonfire between July 2 and July 6 in observance of Independence Day

Outdoor cooking is allowed year-round in all communities and is not subject to open burning limits.

With specific approval from MassDEP, local fire departments may also stage outdoor fires for purposes of fire prevention or protection research and training

North Reading Fire Department News

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