Properly constructed burn pile of natural vegetation. Photo courtesy of The Loudoun Tribune of Sterling, Virginia

Residential burning in Plumas County

According to the American Lung Association, burning outdoors can be risky for several reasons. First, one risks the fire getting out of control and spreading. Second, smoke contains small particles that can threaten people’s health. Third, burning anything except plant materials risks the emission of particularly toxic smoke that can cause serious illness.

For these reasons, it is always best to avoid burning if possible.

Alternatives to burning

Composting, chipping or shredding with machinery and disposing of green waste are alternatives.

Leaves, grass and small woody debris spread evenly on the ground do not contribute to catastrophic fire. These components also build up the soil if left to decompose in place.

Rules for open burning

Following are the open burn rules for Plumas County:

Open burning is never permitted in downtown Quincy and or East Quincy.

Burn only on days when the Northern Sierra Air Management District has determined that weather conditions favor quick upward dispersal of smoke. Burn from 5 a.m. to noon on those days, a time when upward air movement is usually at its greatest.

A burn permit from the U.S. Forest Service or from local fire districts is required, especially in areas located near Lake Almanor. This is necessary so that fire-fighting personnel know where fires are taking place.

Burn natural vegetation. Don’t burn garbage, any type of glued or manufactured lumber, (including plywood, particle board and oriented strand board), painted or treated wood, plastic, paper, cardboard, waste oil, clothing, insulation, carpet, etc.

A small amount of newspaper, lighter fluid or gas/diesel blend can be used for ignition.

The vegetation must be completely dry. This is because a hot fire produces less smoke and disperses that smoke upward more effectively. Maintaining the proper ratio of wood to air (oxygen) also helps a fire to burn more effectively.

Because they tend to smolder, it is illegal to burn stumps in place.

Native vegetation to be burned must be relatively free of soil and manmade containments in order to burn efficiently without producing manmade toxic smoke. Please be aware, however, that the burning of some native and nonnative vegetation can also produce toxic emissions.

Burning material in a barrel is prohibited in Plumas County, except in remote portions of the county. These remote areas have fewer than three people per square mile and are located within the following zip code areas: 95915 (Belden), 95981 (Strawberry Valley and Little Grass Valley), 96105 (Chilcoot) and 96129 (Beckwourth). In these specified areas, burn barrels may still be used to burn dry, non-glossy paper.

Further restrictions

Burn piles cannot exceed 4 by 4 feet in size.

Burn only native vegetation resulting from routine maintenance at one or two residences, maximum.

Don’t create a smoke nuisance for any neighbors.

Be cautious. If there’s any danger of the fire escaping, or if it is too wet for vegetation to burn well, wait for a better day. It is each person’s responsibility to know and follow local burning regulations and to keep fires from spreading.

When is an air pollution permit needed?

Burning non-residential waste, burning green waste from more than two residences and burning areas larger than one acre require obtaining an air pollution permit from the NSAMD.

An air pollution permit is required for any non-residential fires related to timber harvest, construction, wildlife habitat management, maintenance of road right-of-ways or agricultural operations.

For more information

Visit the NSAMD burn day status website for Plumas County. Burn day status is generally updated by 5 p.m. for the following day.

A PDF specifically written for open burning in Plumas County can be located by searching online for “vegetation and air pollution plumas county.”

Hauling green waste for disposal

Uncontaminated, small to medium diameter natural green waste can only be disposed of at a reduced rate of $5 per cubic yard at two locations in Plumas County: the Quincy Solid Waste Transfer Station on Saturdays and at the Chester Landfill on Fridays and Saturdays.