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The original item was published from 3/19/2021 9:08:05 AM to 1/20/2022 12:00:01 AM.

News Flash

Office of Emergency Services

Posted on: March 18, 2021

[ARCHIVED] Build Defensible Space with Residential Debris Burning

Residential Debris Burn

Fire season will be here soon. Now is the perfect time of year to make your property more resilient to wildfire. To increase the likelihood that your home will withstand a wildfire, it is critical to implement defensible space. 

What is defensible space?

Defensible space is the buffer you create on your property between structures like your home, fence, well house and the flammable material in your yard like trees, brush, grass, wood piles, landscaping, and wildlands.  

To slow the rate of spread of a wildfire, clear away ladder fuels and create separation between flammable vegetation and the structures on your property. 

This time of year offers a unique opportunity for residents to affordably and efficiently reduce green waste levels on their properties. CAL FIRE NEU lifted the Burn Suspension in November 2020, which means residential debris burning is allowable when the Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District deems it a permissible burn day. Open residential burning is allowed in unincorporated Nevada County without a permit from CAL FIRE or a local fire district. Soon, as the weather warms and humidity levels drop, CAL FIRE will announce when burn permits will be required. For now, residential burning is legal without a burn permit in unincorporated Nevada County. 

Burn piles are prohibited in the city limits of Grass Valley and Nevada City. A burn permit from the fire district is required in the Town of Truckee. Burn permits from both Truckee Fire Protection District, and CAL FIRE when required, are available online and are free of charge. Some Home Owner Associations may also require permits or may prohibit burning; inquire with your association for the rules in your neighborhood. 

Before you burn, check to see if it is a permissible burn day, at or by calling (530) 274-7928, Western Nevada County, or (530) 582-1027, Eastern Nevada County.

Manage Your Burn Pile Safely:

  • Check to see if it is a Burn Day. Visit or call 530-274-7928.
  • Maintain a 10 ft diameter, down to bare soil, free of flammables.
  • Burn dry, dead material only such as leaves, pine needles and tree trimmings.
  • Keep a water source and shovel on hand.
  • Tend to your pile always.
  • Check weather conditions before burning; never burn on a windy day.
  • Burn between 9am-3pm for maximum smoke dispersion. 
  • An adult is required to be in attendance of the fire.
  • Fully extinguish coals with water. 

Tips & Tricks for Reducing Smoke

Vegetation that has not had time to dry out, leaves, and pine needles will generate larger amounts of smoke. To avoid creating plumes of smoke, burn material that has been down for 3-6 weeks and has had a chance to dry out. If you have dead pines needles and leaves to burn, incorporate that material into your burn pile slowly over time once you have a clean, hot flame. Burning exclusively pine needles, or too many at once, can lead to a smoke nuisance which can result in unhappy neighbors and a steep fine. 

What can be burned?

Dry, natural vegetation, grown on the property can still be burned outdoors in open piles unless prohibited by local ordinances. No household trash or garbage can be burned outdoors at residences. Burning trash, garbage, plastic, and treated lumber is not allowed by the California Air Resources Board. (Learn more here)

Alternatives to Residential Debris Burning

Chip Material

Chipped material can be used 30 ft from the home for weed abatement, erosion control, water retention or as an additive in compost. Have your green waste chipped through the Fire Safe Council’s Chipping Program, rent a chipper, or hire a local vendor to chip the material for you. 

Order Residential Curbside Pickup

Waste Management and Tahoe Truckee Sierra Disposal both offer curbside pickup options. To learn if your property is eligible for this service, visit (866-844-1508) or (530-583-7800). 

Rent a Large Green Waste Dumpster

Waste Management and Tahoe Truckee Sierra Disposal both offer large dumpsters for rent. Reserve a dumpster for your property, or cost-share with neighbors who are also developing defensible space around their homes. Visit (866-844-1508) or (530-583-7800). 

Drop Off Green Waste

Drop off green waste at Waste Management’s McCourtney Road Transfer Station or Tahoe Truckee Sierra Disposal. Standard disposal rates apply. 

Compost Leaves and Pine Needles

Leaves and pine needles often produce large quantities of smoke when burned. Composting these items creates a nutrient rich soil amendment for your garden. 



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