Open Burning
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Open Burning

What is open burning?

Simply thought of as burning things outside, “open burning” has residual effects well beyond the scope of the naked eye. It creates both health and environmental risks, while producing possible smoke and odor nuisance to those nearby. Additionally, open burning makes it more difficult to meet health-based air quality standards for Marion County.

Why does BNS enforce open burning?

Studies show that even small camp fires burning clean wood can release toxic chemicals into the air. And burning unclean materials presents an even greater hazard. Thus, before lighting that fire, remember to protect yourself, your neighbors, and your wallet by knowing what and where you can burn.

Who is affected by open burning?

Open Burning affects everyone. The nature and quantity of smoke generated by burning depends on the type of materials burned and the current environmental conditions. However, all smoke contains pollutants, some of which are toxic. These pollutants can harm the health of your family and neighbors, as well as the environment. Additionally, if not controlled, fires can destroy property.

Smoke from burning five pounds of leaves alone contains about a pound of air pollution. Because initially the smoke is relatively close to the ground, that it can be inhaled before dispersing into the atmosphere causing irritation to the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. And once airborne, the smoke can drift into surrounding areas causing even more related issues.

Often, the smoke generated has the greatest impact on those with asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, pneumonia, or allergies. It is not uncommon for smoke from open burning to exacerbate these conditions, which could lead to severe difficulty breathing. Individuals with pre-existing lung problems, and women who are pregnant or nursing could suffer more serious health effects.

Repeated exposure to smoke can also cause developmental problems in children, and increase the chances of developing cancer. Even healthy children are affected by small particles of mold, fungi, and chemical pollutants found in smoke.

Are there any alternatives to open burning?

What CAN Marion County residents burn?

Marion County residents are allowed to burn only dried twigs or limbs and branches that originate from their property for disposal purposes, if they follow these requirements:

  • Maintain a means to extinguish the fire at all times while burning
  • Use a non-combustible container with a ventilated mesh covering containing openings no greater than ¼-inch
  • Burn only between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
  • Place the container at least 15-feet from any structure, trees, or other object that may catch fire
  • Attend the fire at all times
  • Prevent creating a nuisance
Open burning types allowed include:
  • Cooking fires such as barbecue grills
  • Campfires, patio fire pits, or chimenea
  • Ceremonial bonfires conducted by established groups such as schools, churches, or other recognized organization
  • Personal comfort fires

DPW -- Air Quality Home

What can Marion County residents NOT burn?

Materials ILLEGAL to burn at anytime, anywhere in Marion County, include the following:

  • Leaves
  • Grass clippings
  • Stumps
  • Household garbage/trash
  • Waste lumber
  • Furniture/mattresses
  • Land-clearing debris
  • Dead animals
  • Tires
  • Asbestos material
  • Wire
  • Hazardous materials

Illegal burning may result in fines up to $2,500. CH 511 ARTICLE VII Open Burning

Can I burn if I have agricultural waste?

Chapter 511, Section 511-703(4) states the City of Indianapolis may grant approval for open burning of plant life grown on the premises in the course of agricultural operations, when it can be shown that such open burning is necessary and that no fire hazard will occur. This is provided the person intending to dispose of plant life by open burning shall obtain approval from the fire department which has jurisdiction, and from the City of Indianapolis. The document below addresses the specific requirements one must meet in order to perform such a burn. An application must be submitted as directed on the form.

Can I conduct a fire training in Marion County?

Chapter 511-704 states the Department Business and Neighborhood Services may authorize:

  • intentional and controlled burning of actual or simulated structures in Marion County for the exclusive purpose of training fire department personnel concerning firefighting and fire prevention;
  • intentional and controlled burning at facilities which are designed for the training of firefighting or fire prevention personnel for the exclusive purpose of training fire department personnel concerning firefighting, fire rescue and survival, and fire prevention; and
  • industrial fire training where such fires are properly supervised by a responsible person; provided, however, that the administrator may require compliance with such general or special restrictions, standards and qualifications as in the discretion of the administrator are deemed advisable.

If your organization is intending on conducting a fire training in Marion County, an application must be submitted to the Bureau of Environmental Services at least ten days in advance of the training.

What if you see open burning?

Please call the Mayor’s Action Center at 327-4622 to register an open burning complaint. If there is an emergency, call 911.

If you need additional information pertaining to the City’s open burning response program, please call 327-2236 or visit