Types of Burning | About Smoke & Health | Rules & Regulations | Permit Burning

Open burning is the practice of using fire to dispose of unwanted materials, modify natural habitats, and to provide heat energy for warmth and cooking. The Fire Department and the Air Pollution Control District both regulate open burning. The Fire Department regulations address public safety and the District addresses air quality. Open burning, even when conducted in accordance with all regulations and best management practices has the potential to degrade air quality, cause a public nuisance, and affect health.

Burning waste of any kind in an open fire is prohibited, except 1) to dispose of waste produced by commercial agricultural operations, which must be done under strict conditions, and 2) backyard burning of plant trimmings and leaves allowed in specific areas by permit and under strict conditions. The District will investigate complaints of smoke nuisance and burns suspected of not meeting the conditions required. See Complaint Process.

 Types of Burning

Agricultural and Prescribed
Open Burning
Open Burning
Other Types
of Burning

Agricultural burning  – allowed for commercial agricultural operations with a permit from fire department, only on permissive burn day (see Burn Days). Agricultural operations includes the growing of crops or raising of farm animals, as well as forest management, range improvement, habitat improvement for wildlife or game, and disease or pest prevention.

Prescribed or controlled burns  /  wildland vegetation management – controlled burns performed by official fire agencies, the National Forest Service, and Vandenberg Air Force Base are allowed with a permit, only on a permissive burn day.

Prescribed burns require a smoke management plan submitted to the District to ensure the smoke will have  minimal adverse affect on public health. The smoke management plan uses information on meteorological conditions, fuel moisture, fuel loading, and fire suppression techniques to identify ways to minimize the smoke impacts. The plan may include instructions to suspend a burn if conditions warrant.


Trash burning – PROHIBITED

Residential backyard burning of plant trimmings and leaves – prohibited EXCEPT in specific areas where it is allowed with a permit from the fire department, only on a permissive burn day. Chipping, composting, and recycling are cleaner alternatives to backyard burning. See the county’s ‘Less is More” recycling resource guide for yard waste.

Right of way burning – is the clearance of a right-of-way by a public entity or utility. Allowed only in in the unincorporated area of the Santa Ynez Valley with a  permit from the fire department, only on a permissive burn day.

Training fires – sometimes fire departments will burn structures for training purposes. These fires are regulated under District Rule 313 Fire Set Under Public Authority.

Fire hazard reduction – outdoor burning of cuttings from trees and brush that have been cut specifically for the purpose of reducing the fire hazard. Restricted to areas within the Hazard Reduction Burn Permit Zone Map (Chapter 15 of the Santa Barbara County Code), with permit from the fire department, only on permissive burn day.

Campfires & cooking – allowed at home, in parks with BBQ facilities, and in permitted campsites, unless restricted by fire prevention agencies during high fire season.

Wildfires – although we cannot regulate wildfires, they are among the most detrimental to public health. About Smoke and Health

Indoor fireplace & woodstove burning – Some areas have found it necessary to restrict fireplace burning in order to meet air quality standards. Santa Barbara County does not currently regulate fireplace burning. Smoke from fireplaces, however, can have a negative impact on our neighbors. Burning trash in fireplaces is prohibited. See our Tips for Cleaner Fireplace Burning.

Indoor Restaurant  BBQ fires – The District does not permit restaurants. However, restaurants are subject to District Rule 302 Visible Emissions  and Rule 303 Nuisance. The Visible Emissions rule applies to smoke vented from the building. The Nuisance rule applies to any public nuisance, such as excessive smoke or odors coming from a restaurant.