TIPS FOR OPEN BURNING from FIRE ENGINE Productions on Vimeo.

Open burning season in Harvard runs from
January 15th – May 1st of each year.

Open fires are not allowed at any other time of the year. Residents are permitted small outdoor cooking fires year-round. However, it’s a good idea to avoid using any open flames when conditions are dry and/or windy (during the open burning season, conditions will warrant whether or not you will be permitted to burn on any given day. For more information about open burning permits, please click here).

With A Permit, Burning of the Following Materials Is ALLOWED:

  • Brush, cane, driftwood, and forestry debris from other than commercial or industrial land clearing operations
  • Materials normally associated with the pursuit of agriculture such as, fruit tree prunings, dead raspberry stalks, blueberry patches for pruning purposes, and infected beehives for disease control.
  • Trees and brush resulting from agricultural land clearing.
  • Fungus infected elm wood, if no other acceptable means of disposal is available.

Burning of the Following Materials Is NOT ALLOWED:

  • Brush, trees, cane and driftwood from commercial and/or industrial land clearing operations.
  • Grass, hay, leaves and stumps, and tires.
  • Construction material and debris.

How to Safely Ignite the Fire:

  • Open burning is not permitted before 10am (and must be fully extinguished by 4pm).
  • An adult should always be present during open burning and children and pets should be kept at a safe distance away.
  • Never use gasoline, kerosene or any other flammable liquid to start a fire! The risk of personal injury in these cases is very high.
  • Make sure the burn site is open and away from woods, other brush, overhead utility wires and anything else that could catch fire.
  • Before starting your fire, wet the area around the fire site thoroughly to prevent spreading.
  • Burn one small pile at a time and slowly add to it. This will help keep the fire from getting out of control.
  • Use paper and kindling to start a fire and add progressively larger pieces of wood. Parts of a leftover Christmas tree may also be used.


Fires Must be Attended Until Completely Extinguished

Do not leave your fire burning unattended. This is a reason to revoke your burning permit.

Fire Control Tools and Water Supply Must Be Present

The water supply can be a pressurized fire extinguisher, a pump can or garden hose. Be sure to test it out before igniting the fire to be sure it works properly. Also, if relying on a garden hose, double-check that the water supply is turned on and that there are no cracks in the hose itself. You are required to have a water supply and fire control tools on hand. A garden hose with enough length to completely surround the fire (and even a little more) is best.

Watch the Wind: Be Prepared to Quickly Extinguish All Open Burning

It is unsafe to burn during high winds. Please use common sense and don’t wait for the fire department to inform you that conditions have become unsafe to burn. Be aware of the wind direction — that’s where the fire will want to go. Wind direction and intensity can always change, so be prepared. Sudden wind change is the how most open burning gets out of control.

Don’t Delay a Call for Help
Don’t let the flames get any higher than waist-level — anything higher is too big. If for some reason, the fire should get out of control, call the fire department immediately. Use the utmost caution to prevent injury to yourself or family members or any damage by fire to your home.

Extinguish the Fire Fully
Burn the fire down to the coals, drown them with water, spread them out, then drown them again. When extinguishing your fire, make sure to really soak the fire completely. Many of the Harvard Fire Department calls for brush fires are a result of flareups after the resident thought the fire was out.
To make absolutely certain the fire is completely extinguished, dump some buckets of soapy water (dish soap is fine) on the burn site. Soapy water adheres to the surface of materials and keeps them from re-igniting. Our Harvard Fire Department forestry truck and pumpers have foam settings that we use to fight all kinds of fires. Foam is a very efficient and effective extinguisher.

April is the Cruelest Month
April is usually the worst month for brush fires. When snow pack recedes, before new growth emerges, last year’s dead grass, leaves and wood are dangerous tinder. Winds also tend to be stronger and more unpredictable during April. Unfortunately many people wait until the warmer, drier weather to conduct open burning, when conditions can quickly deteriorate.

Prevent Wildfires by Burning During Wet Snowy Conditions
Prevent permit fires from becoming wild land fires by burning early in the season. Wet and snowy winter conditions hinder the rapid spread of fire on or under the ground. Weather conditions and increased fire danger may lead to many days when burning cannot be allowed to take place.

Open Burning Alternatives

Open burning releases large amount of carbon dioxide, other gases and solid substances directly into the air, which can contribute to respiratory problems. Disposal of natural materials is best for the environment when they are used again in a different form. Try chipping or composting tree limbs, brush or forestry debris to use as landscaping materials. Check with your local public works or highway department; many have chippers at their municipal recycling center or transfer station, and will process debris for homeowners.

If you have questions about open burning, please contact Chief Rick Sicard ( or call 978-456-3648.