Outdoor Burn Rules

(Open burning season in Gwinnett runs from October 1 through April 30)

Now is the time of year when most people tend to clear vegetation and yard debris from their property. It's also a time when firefighters see an increase in the number of grass fires that damage property and tie up valuable resources.

Many people choose to burn foliage such as branches, twigs, leaves and grass instead of having them hauled away. The Gwinnett County Department of Fire and Emergency Services would like to encourage people to use caution and to always follow the rules when conducting an outdoor debris burn on their property. The county has an established fire ordinance (Gwinnett County Fire Ordinance, Article-II, Section 46-54) that addresses the burning of debris. The ordinance lists rules and regulations for anyone wishing to conduct an outdoor burn.

Traditionally, property owners are allowed to burn small amounts of yard debris annually, from October 1 to April 30. Outdoor burning in metro Atlanta is prohibited annually from the beginning of May to the end of September. There are certain days within the outdoor burning period that are designated as "no burn" days. This is mainly because of unexpected changes in weather and atmospheric conditions.  The decision to allow burning is based on information obtained from the National Weather Service and the Georgia Forestry Commission. If a Red Flag Warning is issued by the National Weather Service, it means that a combination of winds, low relative humidity and warm temperatures are creating a rapid fire growth potential. Therefore, a Red Flag Warning constitutes a "no burn" designation for the day. Anyone considering an outdoor burn should check the Gwinnett Fire Community Risk Reduction (CRR) - Fire Marshal's website at www.gwinnettfiremarshal.com or call the Burn Information Line at 678.518.4979.  All information is updated daily by 9:00am.     

When not conducted properly, an outdoor burn can quickly spread out of control and threaten nearby structures. These types of fires most often result in significant damage to the exterior siding of houses or the complete loss of a privacy fence or outbuilding. The smoke from an out-of-control fire may also restrict visibility of motorists and cause portions of roadways to be temporarily closed. Outdoor burns should only be conducted when necessary and always with safety in mind. Based on the demographics of the county the smoke from an outdoor burn impacts a greater number of people and may be considered at times to be a nuisance or an inconvenience.           

Because most people really want to do the right thing, firefighters first take an educational approach when responding to burn violation complaints.  "Our belief is that people may not be aware of the rules for outdoor burning or the fact that a particular day is not a burn day," said Captain Tommy Rutledge, spokesman for Gwinnett Fire and Emergency Services. Rutledge said that a notice of non-compliance or an actual citation may be issued if the burn is not being conducted in accordance with the established fire ordinance.

Gwinnett Fire and Emergency Services offers the following information about the fire ordinance and the rules and regulations for outdoor/open burning activities:

Rules for outdoor burning:

  • Burning shall be conducted during daylight hours only, Monday through Saturday.Burning is NOT allowed after dark or on Sundays.This rule applies only if the day has not been designated as a "no burn" day
  • Burning shall be of natural fallen vegetation, such as limbs, leaves and twigs.Burning trash or other materials is not allowed
  • Burning shall be in small piles, maximum size is three-feet by three-feet
  • The burn pile shall be at least 50 feet from any structure
  • The burn pile shall be constantly attended (supervised) and a water source, such as a garden hose that can reach the burn pile.Firefighters also suggest having a portable fire extinguisher close by
  • The burn pile shall be completely extinguished before dusk. Burning after dark is not allowed

Outdoor burning restrictions:

  • Outdoor burning is NOT allowed after dark or on Sundays
  • No outdoor burning is allowed if winds exceed 15 miles per hour.Never conduct an outdoor burn on a windy day!Steady winds contribute to the fast spread of fires
  • No outdoor burning when it is overcast, raining or foggy.Burning is only allowed on clear days with little or no cloud cover.Burning is not allowed within 24 hours after a period of rain. This causes the smoke to bank-down closer to the ground, presenting a hazard
  • No burning of household garbage. Only natural/fallen yard vegetation is allowed. This includes limbs, leaves and twigs
  • No burning is allowed if the Gwinnett County Department of Fire and Emergency Services or a representative from the CRR-Fire Marshal's Office deems the burn to be offensive to others or poses a health risk to people in the area

For additional information on outdoor debris burning or to find out when burning is allowed, please go to the Community Risk Reduction/Fire Marshal's website at www.gwinnettfiremarshal.com or call the Burn Information Line at 678.518.4979.