FAQs for Open Burning in Florida

Q1. What do you mean by “open burning”?
  • A. Any burning that takes place in Florida where the smoke does not go through a smoke stack is considered “open”.
Q2. What do you mean by “land clearing”
  • A. Land-clearing is done in connection with the construction of buildings, roads, or for land development or mineral operations. Many people associate this term with, “well I am clearing my property of palmetto and gallberry bushes so that must be what I am doing”.
Q3. What is a certified burner?
  • A. A certified burner is a person who has passed one of the Florida Forest Service training classes. Has demonstrated proficiency in conducting a burn(s) and the local office of the Florida Forest Service has recommended certification if everything has been completed satisfactorily.
Q4. What benefits does a certified burner receive?
  • A. Because of their extra training and demonstrated proficiency, certified burners are given certain allowances to burn longer (during the day) and on days when other burners cannot get authorizations.
Q5. What are the Certification Programs in Florida?
  • A.There are two burner certification programs. Pile burner certification is for burners that only burn vegetation in piles or windrows (Florida does not allow burning anything other than naturally occurring vegetation – no household debris or other garbage). The other type of certification is for acreage burns which could be post harvest for timber (if the debris has not been piled or windrowed) or burning across naturally occurring vegetation e.g., pinelands, grasslands, or similar areas. If you are interested in becoming a certified burner, contact the local Florida Forest Service Office and they will know where the classes are being held (if any are available).
Q6. Are there other rules or laws that I might have to know to be able to burn in Florida?
  • A. Unfortunately the statewide open burning laws and rules are not the only ones you might have to be concerned about. It is best to contact your local fire department to find out if the city/county might have additional rules or ordinances that you must adhere to in order to burn. It is also possible that they do not allow any type of burning or that a burn ban might be in place due to extreme drought.
Q7. If I get authorization from the Florida Forest Service may I move the burn location to another site, other than the location given to the FFS when I got the authorization? Can someone else use my customer number to burn?
  • A. The authorization is for one location only, if you burn somewhere else you may be fined by the FFS or the city or county where the burn is actually taking place. If your customer number is used by someone else, you will be responsible for the burn and any problems that might arise from the burn. It is best if everyone uses their own customer number which is free and easy to obtain from your local Florida Forest Service Office.
Q8. How do I get a burning authorization in Florida, and what information do I need to have ready to give the FFS.
  • A. Call your local Florida Forest Service (FFS) office and request an authorization to burn either after 4:00 p.m. of the day before the burn or on the day of the burn.
  • Florida Forest Service - Field Operations
  • If you do not complete the burn that day and need to continue the next day you must call for an authorization for each day you plan to burn just as you did for the first day, unless an extended authorization is issued for up to three days.
  • An extended authorization does not give you permission to burn outside normal burning hours as outlined for either certified or non-certified burners.
  • You can complete your request by calling the FFS, it is not necessary to drive to the office.
  • You will need to specify exactly where the burn is being conducted.
  • One piece of information that will help with this location is the public land survey information from the deed to the property.
    • i. You will usually find your Section/Township/Range on your deed.
    • ii. This is a one mile by one mile area. Once the duty officer (the person you are speaking to on the phone) has this information they can narrow down the exact location very quickly.
  • You will also need to give the duty officer your address (if you have not set up an account in advance) & the purpose of your burn.
  • Depending on the purpose, the duty officer may tell you what the legal requirements are regarding how far from other homes/roads, combustible material, or occupied buildings your fire must be before you start the burn.
Q9. What are the different types of burning or purposes for setting a fire in Florida? How far must the burn be from roads, neighbors and burnable vegetation?
  • A. When requesting an authorization you should tell the person on the phone your purpose, in Florida they are:
    • i. Silviculture – this is any acreage or pile burn that is associated with a forestry operation dealing with the establishment, development, reproduction, and care of forest flora and fauna.
    • ii. Agriculture – this is the burning of vegetative material originating on site in conjunction with the cultivation of land, and including: gardening or horticulture, fruit growing, raising of vegetables, trees, shrubs, plants, pastures or rangeland.

       The ONLY setbacks for agriculture and silviculture burning are for piles. Agriculture or silviculture piles must be 300 ft from any occupied building, 100 ft from any roadway and 50 ft from any wildlands, brush or combustible structure.

    • iii. Land Clearing Operation – means the uprooting or clearing of vegetation in connection with construction for buildings and rights-of-way, land development, or mineral operations, but does not include yard waste. The setbacks for residential include 300 ft from any occupied building, 100 ft from any roadway and 50 ft from any wildlands, brush or combustible structure. The definition of non-residential land clearing is any other type of land clearing debris in Florida other than residential. The setbacks for non-residential land clearing are 1000 ft from any occupied building, 100 ft from any paved public roadway and 100 ft from any wildlands, brush or combustible structure.
  • You may also use an air curtain incinerator to burn debris in Florida. This is a very specially designed, piece of equipment that can quickly burn debris in an area with little or no smoke. The setbacks for air curtain incinerators are the same as for residential land clearing. An air curtain incinerator is required for certain types of burning including the burning of diseased livestock.
Q10. What time of day may you burn in Florida?
  • A. For pile burning the hours are 8:00 a.m. Central time or 9:00 a.m. Eastern time (starting a fire before this may well cause a smoke problem that could result in an accident on local roadways, although Florida encourages the responsible use of fire, we must also protect public safety) to one hour before sunset unless you are a Certified Pile Burner, in that case you may burn to one hour after sunset.
  • The only exception for Certified Pile Burners is in areas designated as smoke sensitive. In that case you can only burn to one hour before sunset and at that time no visible emissions are allowed.
  • If the area is not a smoke sensitive area your pile is considered extinguished if there is no visible flame (you will know if the area is smoke sensitive because the duty officer issuing the authorization will tell you at that time it is issued).
  • For broadcast burning daytime authorizations are 8:00 a.m. Central or 9:00 a.m. Eastern time to one hour before sunset unless you are a Certified Prescribed Burn Manager, in that case you may burn to one hour after sunset.
  • Again the only exception for Certified Prescribed Burn Managers would be in smoke sensitive areas where all fires must discontinue spreading one hour before sunset.
  • What is meant by smoke sensitive area?
    • i. The Florida Forest Service will designate busy roads, neighborhoods, schools, hospitals, airports etc as smoke sensitive.
    • ii. Every effort is made to make certain these areas are minimally impacted by smoke from open burning.
    • iii. This may require that the burner choose a day when the wind will be blowing the smoke away from the smoke sensitive area.
Q11. Is my County under a burn ban?
  • A. Although the Florida Forest Service does attempt to keep up with all of the burn bans, the counties are not required to inform us of a burn ban or when they remove one. If you want to know for sure it is best to call the local city/county fire department to determine if a local ban is still in place.
    Florida Forest Service - Wildfire Information
Q12. How can I legally and safely get rid of my paper waste, old files etc?
  • A. These materials are best recycled, either through curbside pickup (if available) or taking the material to your local recycling center. Paper cannot be burned.
Q13. Weather Questions
  • Q. What is dispersion?
    • A. This is an index that measures how well the air can disperse or get rid of smoke and other pollutants. Florida is very fortunate in this regard because we have very good ventilation that moves any smoke out of most areas very quickly.
      Florida Forest Service - Atmospheric Dispersion Index
  • Q. Why can’t I burn right after a rain when it is very safe?
    • A. Burning wet material will result in a lot more smoke and very inefficient or incomplete burning.