Open Burning Laws and Penalties in Utah

Utah has open burning laws in place that increase in strictness during the summer months and failure to comply can result in severe criminal penalties.

Air quality

Photo by: Cheng

According to the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, “Open burning is a source of air pollution that is regulated by the Division of Air Quality (DAQ). There are statewide rules in place that regulate open burning activities to help minimize emissions and ensure that the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) are met.” Beyond air quality control, open burning causes increased risk of wildfires during the summer months.

Open burning permits

No matter the season, open burning always requires permission from local fire officials. Utah residents who wish to take care of weeds on their property by torching them must first obtain a permit.The DEQ states that residential open burning permits “may be issues between March 1 and May 30 and between September 15 and November 15” in select counties. “Permits may be issued between March 30 and May 30 and between September 15 and October 30 in all other areas of the state.” When the season is closed, there are permits available for agricultural use only. These permits can be obtained through the nearest fire department or county sheriff.

Basic rules for open burning

Open Burning

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If a person has received a permit for open burning, there are basic rules that must be followed to avoid criminal charges. Utah Administrative Code R307-202 lists some requirements and prohibitions such as:

• “no person shall set or use an open outdoor fire for the purpose of disposal or burning of petroleum wastes; demolition or construction debris; residential rubbish; garbage or vegetation; tires; tar; trees; wood waste; other combustible or flammable solid, liquid or gaseous waste; or for metal salvage or burning of motor vehicle bodies.

• No material shall be burned unless it is clearly described and quantified as material to be burned on a valid permit.

• Open burning of clippings, bushes, plants and prunings from trees incident to property clean-up activities, including residential cleanup, provided that the following conditions have been met: ( . . . )

• (iii) Such burnings occur in accordance with state and federal requirements;

• (iv) Materials to be burned are thoroughly dry; and

• (v) No trash, rubbish, tires, or oil are included in the material to be burned, used to start fires, or used to keep fires burning.”

Personal fire pits and campfires

UAC R307-202-6 notes “The following types of open burning do not require a permit when not prohibited by other local, state or federal laws and regulations, when it does not create a nuisance, as defined in Section 76-10-803, and does not impact the health and welfare of the public.

(1) Devices for the primary purpose of preparing food such as outdoor grills and fireplaces;

(2) Campfires and fires used solely for recreational purposes where such fires are under control of a responsible person and the combustible material is clean, dry wood or charcoal; and

(3) Indoor fireplaces and residential solid fuel burning devices except as provided in R307-302-2.”

Criminal penalties

Photo by: Shanon Ramos

For those who do not obtain a permit when it is required or otherwise fail to follow the rules regarding open burning laws, there is the possibility of criminal penalties. The Utah Division of Forestry, Fire & State Lands and Utah Code 65A-8-211 state regarding open burning that failure to do any of the follow is a class B misdemeanor:

• “tend the fire at all times;

• Notify your local fire department dispatch [prior to open burning]; or

• [not making sure the fire is] out cold before leaving the scene.”

Class B misdemeanors are punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. For any Utah residents who are facing criminal charges for open burning or other fire related charges, contact a criminal defense attorney immediately.

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