Wake County's open burning ordinance provides the Wake County Fire Marshal, or his agent, the ability to permit open burning, provided that all necessary conditions are met. The County Fire Marshal also has the ability to prohibit open burning when it appears that atmospheric conditions at the time are unsuitable for open burning or that the open burning may be hazardous to the health or safety of the environment or the public.

Commonly asked Questions and Answers

What materials am I allowed to burn?
A person cannot kindle, maintain or authorize to be kindled any open burning unless conducted in accordance with North Carolina General Statutes 113-60.21 through 113-60.31 and 15A NCAC 2D .1901. These statutes reference NC Forestry and NC Air Quality regulations. Primarily, the only allowed materials are natural vegetation (leaves, branches, etc.) grown on the property. The NC Division of Air Quality and/or the NC Division of Air Quality can be contacted for more information regarding allowed materials to burn.
 
Is there any open burning exempt from Wake County’s ordinance?
Yes, there are some types of open fires that are exempt from the County ordinance, provided that the atmospheric conditions at the time are suitable for open burning and that the open burning is not hazardous to the health or safety of the environment or the public.
 
These types of open fire are:
  • Recreational and religious ceremonial fires – Fires set for recreational purposes for personal enjoyment or for religious ceremonial purposes and contained within a structure designed and approved for the purpose, or contained in a below ground pit with a minimum depth of four (4) inches and a maximum diameter of (4) feet.
  • Cooking fires – Fires set for cooking food for immediate human consumption, including fires set in outdoor grills or fire places and which do not create a nuisance and which do not use refuse or salvageable materials or synthetic materials other than synthetic materials designed for the purpose.
  • Firefighter training fires – Fires set for the purposes of training firefighting personnel under the jurisdiction of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
  • Human Warmth – Fires set for human warmth and comfort and which do not create a nuisance and which do not use any synthetic materials, refuse of other man made materials.
Fires within any incorporated (municipal) areas of Wake County and burning on farms for bona fide farm purposes as defined in N.C.G.S. Section 153A-340 are not covered by this ordinance.
 
Under what conditions could I be ordered to extinguish my fire?
The fire marshal, or his acting agent, can order the extinguishment by the permit holder, a responsible person, or the fire department of open burning that:
  • creates or adds to a hazardous or objectionable situation;
  • is conducted in violation of any state or federal law or regulation; or,
  • creates a nuisance. The County Fire Marshal has sole authority to determine if a fire under this exception creates a nuisance.
Where am I allowed to burn materials?
Except in the two situations described below, the location for open burning shall not be less than 50 feet from any structure, and provisions shall be made to prevent the fire from spreading to within 50 feet of any structure.
  • If the burning is in an approved container, the fire can be not less than 15 feet from a structure.
  • If the pile size is 3 feet or less in diameter and 2 feet or less in height, the fire must be cannot be within 25 feet from a structure.
Does someone have to remain with the fire at all times?
Yes, open burning must be constantly attended until after the fire is extinguished. In addition, this person must have a minimum of one approved portable fire extinguisher with a minimum rating of 4-A or other approved on-site fire extinguishing equipment such as dirt, water barrel, garden hose or water truck that is available for immediate use.
 
When am I allowed to burn materials?
Permitted open burning is allowed only between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., and no combustible material can be added to the fire after 6 p.m.
 
What is the penalty for violation of the County’s open burning ordinance?
Repeat violations of this section are punishable as a misdemeanor pursuant to NCGS 14-4.

For further information regarding the Wake County Open Burning Ordinance, contact:
Wake County Fire Services Division
331 S. McDowell St.
Raleigh, NC 27601
919-856-6340
919-856-6236 (Fax)
 
For further information regarding the air quality regulations, contact:
N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Division of Air Quality – Raleigh Regional Office
919-571-4700
For further information regarding forestry regulations, contact:
N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Division of Forest Resources – Wake County
919-212-7363