Is Your Fire Legal?

3 years ago | by

a pile of chopped firewood and a wheelbarrow for moving it. IMage by silvervoyager.

The cooler weather has led to a rise in complaints to Coffs Harbour City Council about smoke from the burning of vegetation or rubbish and the use of wood heaters.

“In the past six weeks we’ve dealt with around 20 complaints over burning, mainly in residential areas to do with wood heaters, fire pits and burning vegetation, so we’d like to remind residents of their obligations to their neighbours,” said Robert Percival, Council’s Section Leader Compliance.

Residents are reminded that burning rubbish, painted or treated timber in your wood heater or fire pit is not permitted. You should only burn dry, seasoned hardwood and reduce smoke emissions by not allowing your fire to smoulder overnight.

Burning of vegetation is only permitted in rural and large lot residential zones (zones RU2 and R5). Burning off in all other zones is prohibited without Council approval.

Before you burn you must make sure you are located in the right zone and are burning only dry vegetation. The ‘Protection of the Environment Operations (POEO) (Clean Air) Regulation 2010 (NSW)’ outlines the requirements for burning. An offence under this legislation can lead to fines of up to $500 for an individual and $1,000 for a corporation.

When burning vegetation, you must ensure:

  • it is not green or wet;
  • you consider wind direction, weather conditions and the length of time the material is likely to burn to minimise the amount of smoke produced;
  • the pile does not contain dirt, rubbish, plastics or any other waste.

If you are planning on lighting a fire to burn vegetation, you must also provide 24 hours’ notice to your neighbours and register the burn with the Rural Fire Service (RFS) by phoning (02) 6653 1097 at least one hour before lighting. During the Bush Fire Danger Period (generally from September to March) a fire permit is also required, for which you need to contact your local RFS office.

If you are lighting a fire in a residential area for cooking or recreational purposes, you must ensure it does not cause a smoke nuisance to your neighbours.

To achieve this, you must:

  • ensure the fire is small, typically less than a metre in diameter;
  • ensure the fire is contained eg within a fire pit or BBQ;
  • burn only dried and untreated firewood;
  • limit the number of times you burn;
  • advise your neighbours of your plans.

For further information, go to Council’s website at and search for ‘Control of Burning’ or ‘Chimney Smoke’.

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