The Authority for open burning comes from the Health and Safety Code and the Public Resources Code and is regulated by the El Dorado County Air Quality Management District (AQMD) and CAL FIRE based upon air quality and fire danger. Both agencies have a responsibility to not only address local requirements but also meet State and federal mandates that govern air quality and fire laws.
CAL FIRE requires burn permits beginning May 1st each year, as weather and fuels increase fire risk, and that requirement remains in effect until CAL FIRE determines they are no longer needed, typically at the close of declared fire season in late Fall or early Winter. The primary permit available to homeowners for residential burning allows for a pile size up to 4’ X 4’ and can be obtained online at https://burnpermit.fire.ca.gov/apply-for-a-permit/ or at a CAL FIRE station. No permit is required from AQMD for burn piles that do not exceed 4’ X 4’.
Projects that utilize piles larger than 4’ X 4’ require the Interagency Burning Permit or LE-5, which must be acquired in person at a CAL FIRE station. An inspection of the property by a CAL FIRE Officer may be required prior to permit issuance and fire officers can list any conditions on the permit they determine are necessary for public safety. These conditions may include when the pile(s) can be burned, pre-burn notifications to CAL FIRE, or weather-based restrictions. Piles larger than 4’ X 4’ also require a permit from AQMD which can be obtained at https://www.edcgov.us/Government/AirQualityManagement/burn-permit-application .
Either CAL FIRE or AQMD can restrict burning based on conditions. It is not uncommon for the air quality to favor burning but fire conditions do not and conversely, to have little or no fire danger but air quality is unacceptable. Each day, AQMD evaluates weather patterns, air movement and air quality to make a decision about allowing burning for the following day. They must not only consider local communities but adjacent areas where smoke and particulates will travel.
In addition, CAL FIRE is constantly looking at short and long range weather forecasts to determine the potential for critical fire weather (high winds and low humidity) that will rapidly dry out vegetation and cause fires to escape and spread. CAL FIRE must also consider the availability of sufficient fire resources to respond to any escaped fires, especially during the winter months when staffing is very limited. Even though the wind may have stopped blowing, all available fire resources may be committed to putting out escaped fires. In recent years, CAL FIRE has banned burning in much of the State during the Summer and early Fall Months due to critically dry vegetation and hazardous weather conditions, and the increased commitment of local fire resources to large fires occurring in other parts of the State.
Landowners are responsible each day to verify it is a permissive burn day before igniting any piles. You can call the burn hotline at (530) 621-5897 or use any of the resources at burn day web-facebook-twitter notice 3-4-14.pdf (edcgov.us) .
AQMD and CAL FIRE recognize that burning is a critical tool to reduce hazardous forest fuels and dispose of vegetation generated from clearing defensible space and other fire prevention projects. They are working hard to support it wherever possible, however, it is up to all of us to ensure we are following the rules and doing it safely. Learn Before You Burn… (edcgov.us)