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Contact information
If you have concerns or questions about open burning, contact one of these programs within the DNR.
Air Management
608-266-7718
Forestry
608-267-7494
Recycling
608-267-7550
Waste & Materials Management
608-266-2111

Summary of regulations for open burning

Several DNR programs regulate open burning for purposes of maintaining air quality, proper management of solid wastes and forest fire control. Below is a brief summary of each set of rules and a list of some relevant open burning statutes, administrative codes and rules.

Overall, the combination of the Air Management Program's restrictive rules on open burning (which have been in place since 1970) and the Waste & Materials Management Program rules means that open burning of most waste materials is prohibited under state law. And local ordinance can override - and, thus, prohibit - the few exceptions that are allowed under state law.

DNR programs

Air Management

The DNR’s air quality rules generally ban all open burning, but list several specific exceptions. Among the exceptions in NR 429.04, Wis. Adm. Code, are:

  • burning of brush or weeds on agricultural lands;
  • burning of small amounts of dry combustible rubbish (excluding wet rubbish, garbage, oily substances, asphalt, plastic or rubber products);
  • outdoor fires for cooking or recreation;
  • burning of trees, wood, brush or demolition materials (excluding asphalt or rubber material); and
  • burning of small amounts of dry leaves and plant clippings.

Also, any open burning that’s allowed must be done under favorable wind and weather conditions, and conform with local ordinances and state fire protection regulations.

Forestry

The DNR’s forest fire control rules apply to open burning in certain areas of the state where forest fire hazard is high. The rules in NR 30, Wis. Adm. Code, identify the "intensive" and "extensive" fire control areas that require permits before open burning can occur.

Each permit, issued by a forest ranger or fire warden, will include restrictions such as precautionary measures, location, time of day for burning, and length of the permit. Permits are not required for camp fires used to cook and provide warmth. Also, the rules set out DNR’s authority to issue emergency burning restrictions in forest fire control areas.

Waste & Materials Management

Commercial, industrial and municipal facilities are prohibited by the 1990 Recycling Act from landfilling or burning yard wastes without energy recovery, as well as disposing of many recyclable materials such as paper and cardboard. However, solid waste management rules allow the burning of dry, untreated and unpainted wood, stumps, trees and brush at specially licensed woodburning facilities that meet location, operation and design criteria in NR 502.11, Wis. Adm. Code.

As an exception, a woodburning license is not needed by single families or households to burn yard waste and small quantities of clean, untreated wood and clean, unrecyclable paper on the property where it’s is generated. Nonetheless, local ordinances still may prohibit this practice, or may require that a local permit be obtained.

And, in any case, no facility or property owner may burn wet combustible rubbish, garbage, oily substances, asphalt, plastic or rubber products.

Laws and regulations

State of Wisconsin open burning laws and regulations

Following is a list of some relevant open burning statutes, administrative codes and rules.

To search for specific codes or statutes, go to the Wisconsin Administrative Codes [exit DNR] or Wisconsin State Statutes [exit DNR].

Wisconsin Administrative Codes

Wisconsin State Statutes

Model ordinance

Model ordinance

The DNR developed the following model ordinance to help Wisconsin counties, cities, villages and towns adopt their own local regulations on outdoor burning and burning of refuse.

Last revised: Monday November 11 2013