Backyard Burning

Keeping our air safe to breath is everyone's responsibility.

What is Backyard Burning?
Backyard burning is the burning of natural vegetation and/or household trash by residents on their own property.

What Happens to the Smoke?
During air inversions, smoke from backyard burning doesn’t move off the reservation; it hangs around the home where the burn is happening and can often move over a neighbor’s home as well. This is especially dangerous for kids, elders, and people with asthma and other respiratory conditions. When smokes hangs in the air, it essentially traps people indoors who have vulnerable immune systems, making it very difficult for them to breathe.

What Can I Burn?

  • Dry branches and twigs
  • Plant pruning
  • Shrubbery
  • Weeds

What shouldn’t I Burn?
Leaves, Grass, Pine Needles: These don’t produce a hot fire, which means there will be lots of smoke. These items are also easily composted.
Wet material: Wet material will not be able to make a hot fire. The fire will produce lots of smoke.
Household Garbage: Burning trash re-leases deadly chemicals into the air. The chemicals will get into our land, food supply, and ultimately our bodies.

  • Make sure that natural vegetation is dry; never burn trash
  • Arrange the natural vegetation in a loose pile so that lots of air can circulate freely
  • Remove all flammable material within a 10-foot range of the burn pile
  • Never use burn barrels (they do not allow enough oxygen to get into the fire)
  • Do not burn during an air inversion (October - March)
  • Keep fire extinguishers nearby – such as water, a shovel, and sand – in case you need to put out your fire quickly

Burn Permits

Burn permit are required on the Colville Indian Reservation. For a burn permits contact Mount Tolman Fire Center at (509) 634-3100.
For burn permits for the cities of:
Omak – You must get a burn permit from the fire station at 16 North Ash Street.
Okanogan – You must get a burn permit from City Hall at 120 3rd Avenue North.
For other cities contact your local City Hall for information.
You’re never permitted to burn during wildfire season (June – October) or when a burn ban for health reasons is in effect during inversion season (October – March).

Burn Alternatives

  • Compost
  • Chipping
  • Take advantage of green waste pick up services, such as City of Okanagan Spring & Fall Clean-Up Days
  • Take waste to a landfill (Okanogan County: Okanogan Central Landfill, 509-422-2602, 240 B&O Road North)

Who Should I Call if the Fire Gets Out of Control?

  • Mount Tolman Fire Center 509-634-3100
  • Tribal Police 509-634-2482 or Emergency 911

Health & Wellness

Don’t risk our reservation and our health by burning at home. It’s just not worth it.

Remember how bad the air was when we had all those wildfires during the summer of 2015?

All outdoor burnings – from wildfires to backyard burns – release poisonous chemicals into the air. These chemicals harm our bodies and our environment.

The particles in fire smoke are damaging to your health. They aggravate conditions like asthma, emphysema, and can cause rashes, nausea, or headaches.

Even a small amount of smoke can affect kids’ and elders’ ability to breathe.
Backyard burns that get out of control can become wildfires.


Suggested Dry Times for Various Materials

It’s crucial that the material you choose to burn is as dry as possible.

Up to 2 inches in diameter | dry time 30 days
2 - 6 inches in diameter | dry time 60 days
Over 6 inches in diameter | dry time 180 days


Backyard Burning PDF