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Take care when backyard burning

When doing backyard burning it's important to think about how the smoke and particles can affect neighbours

With many people now at home and cleaning up around their yards, it’s important to keep in mind how the smoke and particles from backyard burning can affect your neighbours.

Bundaberg Regional Council’s general manager community and environment, Gavin Steele, said people should consider their neighbours.

“We have had an increase in backyard burning complaints, with at least 20 in the last month,” Mr Steele said.

“The main complaints about backyard burning are issues with smoke and smell, particularly for neighbouring properties.

“Excessive smoke and smell can not only interfere with people’s daily activities, they can also affect their health.”

Approval criteria for backyard burning

  1. If burning accumulated material larger than 2m in height, length or width you must obtain Queensland Fire & Emergency Services (QFES) approval. Applications for a permit can be made to your local fire warden found on the Rural Fire website.
  2. If lighting a fire less than 2m in height, length or width you will need to comply with Council’s Local Law No. 3 (Community and Environmental Management) which prohibits the burning of open fires. Only enclosed fires that are design to prevent escape are permitted. Any incinerators must also be constructed in accordance with AS1875;
  3. All fires must comply with the provisions of the Environmental Protection Act 1994 and not cause a smoke nuisance to surrounding properties; 
  4. All fires must not burn any material that maybe harmful to human health and the environment (for example: tyres, plastics).
  5. Every fire must comply with any fire restrictions or bans declared by the State Government from time to time. These details can be found at the Rural Fire website.

Investigating a backyard burning complaint

If issues between neighbours cannot be resolved and further complaints are made, Council will investigate.

When investigating a smoke nuisance complaint, Council will consider:

  • Amount of smoke
  • The smoke’s duration, rate of emission and characteristics
  • Sensitivity of the environment and impact that it has had or may have views of other neighbours or complainants 
  • Other relevant criteria

If the smoke is determined to be a nuisance, is not in an enclosed fireplace designed to prevent escape or contains harmful burnt material, a Notice under the relevant Act will be issued.

Fines will be issued for non-compliance to these requirements under the Environmental Protection Act. 

QFES administer requirements relating to permits and fire bans/restrictions. Failure to comply with these requirements may also lead to further compliance action. 

Handy hints on backyard burning

  • Recycle or reuse wastes where possible;
  • Regular composting reduces the need for burning in the open air;
  • Take large branches or trees to Council waste tips or transfer stations;
  • Avoid burning paints, hazardous chemicals, wet paper or cloth and sanitary napkins, as they release hazardous chemicals;
  • Avoid burning wet or green vegetation which smoulders and causes excessive smoke;
  • Give fires maximum air-flow for efficiency, resulting in less smoke;
  • Ensure adequate fire-control for safety; and
  • Observe weather conditions before lighting fires. If possible, choose a calm day.

Firstly, talk to your neighbours

Mr Steele said it was important to consult neighbours before doing any backyard burning.

“Talk to your neighbours and find out what concerns they have, or ask for suggestions to solve problems,” he said.

“Solutions can often be found which satisfy everyone.”

For more details go to Council’s website.  If you would like to report a smoke nuisance use Snap Send Solve or phone 1300 883 699

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