How to Safely Burn Leaves?

The fall is finally here, and there’s a good chance you’ve been trying to ignore that mess of fallen leaves in your backyard that seems to be growing day by day. However, Burning leaves is more risky than bagging them to recycle, but there are methods to do it responsibly.

According to the National Park Service, human errors are responsible for over 85 percent of wildland fires in the United States, and burning of waste such as fallen leaves and trash is one of the leading causes of wildfires. It’s critical to figure out how to burn leaves since approximately 85% of the particles inhaled deep in the lungs could cause physical or chemical harm.

You don’t need to worry, as I’ve collected all of the essential tips and bits of information you need to know to get rid of those leaves by burning them in a safe and secure manner!

To safely burn leaves, it is imperative to find a secure spot, 50 feet away from any building and use a fire pit or a smoking barrel, with a leave pile easy to manage, or separated, if more than one pile. Beware of the smoke and be mindful of the weather to ensure the safety of those burning leaves.

By following these six simple tips, you can easily clear your yard of any fallen leaves and do so in a manner that will not cause any harm to your property or the surrounding environment!

  • Find a secluded spot at least 50 feet from any surrounding building

As a general rule, the stack should be at least fifty feet from any surrounding buildings. And you also need to ensure that there are no nearby obstacles to deal with, such as lowered tree branches or power cables.

  • Use a fire pit or a smoking barrel

If you’ve got a fire pit or a smoking barrel, it’s a sensible move to use it. Alternatively, it’s safer to have a dirt patch free of foliage. You also need to use the necessary safety equipment such as leather working gloves. For a more detailed breakdown on which gloves you should pick, check out this article!

  • Your burn pile should be easy to manage.

It might sound wasteful, but a tiny pile is far better than a bigger pile that can be difficult to manage and extinguish.

  • Keep your piles separated.

Maintain a healthy gap among your unburnt leaves and the leaves that are currently burning.  It’s also a wise decision to place your burn pile downwind from your unburnt leaves to keep the windblown kindling from creating a spark.

  • Keep away from smoke

You also need to be mindful of smoke that is coming out of the burn pile and ensure that you can see the entire pile from your vantage point to prevent any wildfires.

“Wildfire causes episodes of the worst air quality that most people living in high income countries are ever going to see – Sarah Henderson”

According to one research, roughly 46 million individuals in the western United States were exposed to at least one wave of smoke from wildfires between 2004 and 2009. There was a 7.2 percent increase in hospital admissions owing to respiratory ailments on days when smoke generated high PM 2.5 levels. Increases in PM 2.5 have also been linked to an increase in the number of cardiac arrests.

  • Be mindful of the weather.

A clear sky will permit the fumes to disappear quickly, and the reduced wind will help maintain your flames without them getting out of hand.

When you think of the autumn months, your mind will surely be drawn to the shades of yellow, orange, and brown leaves that scatter the ground. However, these fallen leaves may look good but they eventually have to be cleaned up.

Why Should You Burn Your Leaves?

Managing a yard full of falling leaves can be a difficult undertaking. Although it is feasible to load leaves from tiny, moderately wooded yards into sacks, this will not be feasible for a big patch of land. Rather than spending a lot of money on leaf bags and a lot of transportation, you can opt to burn them.

Burning your leaves is a quick and efficient way to clear tree leaves from the yard.

A fast web search will show all the excuses not to burn leaves, so there are a couple worth mentioning. But burning leaves is a wise idea when handled properly. With plenty of guidance and also some study, leaf-burning could become your latest tool of choice.

If you are on the fence, take a look at this table with a list of pros and cons that will help you decide what’s best for you.

Fast and easyAir pollution
No additional expensesPotential fire and health hazard
Can be considered the natural method of disposalMay not be legal in some regions


Burning leaves might seem like an effective way to clean up your yard, but you still need to be mindful of legal requirements.

Are You Allowed to Burn Leaves?

Before you start, the very first thing to ask is if you are permitted to burn leaves in your location.

There are two kinds of ways to burn leaves: closed burning and open burning. Closed burning represents the kind of burning inside a property using fire pits and wood pellet stoves. Open burning includes practices like bonfires and burn piles. Although most areas allow closed burning, open burning is different.

Many areas, especially those with a bigger population or heightened incidence of wildfires, would not enable any open fire. If you’re trying to burn the leaves wherever you reside, you could use a permit issued by your local authorities.

Your local authority will include specifics about the criteria or direct you to the appropriate licensing agency. This step can be worth it in the long run.

Permits allow municipal agencies to maintain records of burns occurring in their areas for emergency management and protection purposes. Sometimes, it can be costly to be stuck without one.

Once you’ve sorted out the paperwork, you are one step closer to clearing up your yard. However, you need to take some safety precautions before you start.

Anyone who has ever had to maintain property knows dealing with leaves and other yard debris can be very challenging and time-consuming one good way of dealing with yard waste is to simply pile it up and burn it but landowners need to follow the proper steps for a safe backyard burn.

In the video linked below, you can see a report about the practices of leaf burning in Georgia, and also get a better look at the legal process involved.

In the video, the report interviews Ken Parker, a Georgia Forestry Commission Wildland Fire Specialist, and he stresses the importance of going through the correct legal procedures if you want to burn leaves in your backyard, saying that when you’re burning the first thing you need to do is go ahead and get a burn permit for leaf and limb piles, and he gives out a number for an automated burn permit system that can give individual homeowners permission to burn leaf and limb piles.

During the hot dry months in Georgia residents are not permitted to burn but as the weather cools off and conditions are favorable officials encourage the public to use fire properly

Ken Parker says that it’s something that while people are allowed to do in the state of Georgia it’s a benefit to the people of state of Georgia to do whereas some states do not allow burning at all, and that the people are privileged in the state of Georgia to be able to burn leaves in their own yards. The following is a quote that highlights the differences between what is legal to burn and what is not.

“Even though fire is a great tool it is important to know what citizens are legally allowed to burn. You are allowed in the state of Georgia to burn vegetative materials only leaf limbs grass clippings stuff that you pick up in your yard.

You’re not allowed to burn anything that’s been manmade, processed, altered in any shape, fashion or form, meaning even a 2×4, it may only be a limb but since it’s been processed it’s considered a manufactured product and is not allowed to be burned. “

He went on to gives to tips on what you should have when burning leaves in your backyard as well.

“When they’re doing their burn they need to have some means of control of the fire, meaning they need to have a rake, shovel, water supply, something out there to control the fire and to put the fire out. When they’re ready to leave a landowner should always stay with the fire and not leave the fire unattended.

That tends to be when we have a lot of fires escape, is when the landowner some step inside away from their fire ‘Oh I’ll only be there just a minute, I’m just gonna go get me something to drink’, wind comes up, blows the fire when they’re not there to control it.”

Is Leaf Burning Good for Your Health?

There is no dispute that inhaling smoke is harmful to your health. Contact to atmospheric pollutants can induce inflammation of the eyes, throat, and lungs, and can influence your ability to breathe.

Burning often contains carbon monoxide, the exact gas that your household CO alarm detects. With prolonged exposure, carbon monoxide can eliminate oxygen in your bloodstream and trigger carbon monoxide poisoning. Burning leaves can be hazardous to your health, especially if done in a confined space, and can result in asthma, bronchitis, itchy eyes, headaches, and a runny nose, as well as potentially fatal consequences.

Outside of health issues, there are environmental and security implications that need to be considered as well.


Is Leaf Burning Good for the Environment?

Some people discourage leaf burning as due to certain environmental and safety factors.

Firstly, gases emitted during burning will generate a ground-level ozone atmosphere that is unhealthy for biodiversity and fragile vegetation. But by far the biggest fear with open burning is the propensity to go wrong easily. Uncontained fire will spread out of control quite rapidly, with disastrous consequences.

Humans are responsible for over three quarters of all wildfires, several of which begin as stacks of burning leaves.

This is why it’s extremely important to know exactly what you can and can’t burn in your yard, so you don’t face any avoidable issues.

Should You Burn Other Things in your Yard?

Although you can burn leaves easily, it’s crucial to consider what is appropriate to burn and what isn’t. Only residue from trees, like leaves, tree branches, and smaller pieces, can be burned.

These materials ignite very easily and keep almost no heat once they are extinguished, rendering them easy to burn. Burning processed goods such as pallets, timber or carton should be avoided.

Also, forgo thicker trees and logs, since they maintain their heat and can trigger flare-ups after you step away from a burned pile. It’s also good to avoid any branch that you think might have been home to poison ivy.

Torching urushiol, an oily sap found in oak and poison ivy, can trigger allergy symptoms to the eyes, mouth, respiratory system, and surrounding tissues. Ingestion of urushiol molecules will exacerbate the lungs and trigger serious respiratory problems.

This shows the importance of being prepared before burning leaves and having the right tools for the job.

The kinds and quantities of numerous compounds in the smoke from burn barrels were measured by the US Environmental Protection Agency, the New York State Department of Health, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. For some of those chemicals, burning 10 pounds of garbage per day in a residential burn barrel may generate as much pollution as a modern, well-controlled incinerator burning 400,000 pounds of trash per day!


What Do You Need to Burn Leaves Properly?

You need to get the appropriate equipment on board when you actually burn leaves. This is a collection of the most essential instruments and supplies for burning leaves:

  1. Leather work gloves

They are resistant to fire to some degree and provide much better protection than other materials.

  1. A metal rake

It not melt or crack as quickly as a plastic rake, so have one on hand to better handle your pile.

  1. Supply of water

You ought to keep a supply of water such as a garden hose near the pile. Not only can you do it to remove any unintended fires, but you can also build a perimeter by spraying the field surrounding the fire.

  1. A good quality hose nozzle

It should be fully charged can save you in a pinch and give you a steady stream.

  1. Wear a face mask and protective glasses.

The face mask will protect you and stop you from taking in smoke while you hold the pile, and the protective glasses will protect the toxic fumes and the dust from floating between your eyes. Check out this article for a comprehensive guide on the best face masks out there! You can also read our product review for safely glasses to ensure you get the best protection.

Some types of leaves also need special attention to burn properly, as they carry more of a risk. An example is burning dry leaves.

Why is the Burning of Dry Leaves Discouraged?

Burning dry leaves is discouraged because it creates embers that can be transported even by a light wind and fall on any dry turf, setting the area on fire.

When you are burning dry leaves, you will create embers that are small and light and can be lifted by even a gentle wind, rising into the air on self-generated air, like small hot air balloons.

Typically these embers flare themselves out, although it is certainly plausible for a few of them to remain blazing, and to fall on any dry turf, with just the correct wind speed, and to set the area on fire.

This fire, which has historically been seasonally dry, could expand to engulf a lot. In contrast, when wood is burned, the chances of the embers taking off are far smaller, since they appear to shape pieces of ember than thin wispy embers capable of moving.

Final Thoughts

Burning your leaves can be an excellent and convenient way to clear up your yard and deal with the fall clean up. Just remember to follow the tips in this article before you do!

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