News Flash

Office of Emergency Services

Posted on: March 26, 2021

Develop Defensible with Backyard Burning

Cropped Burn Pile

At this time of year, open residential backyard burning is allowed in unincorporated Nevada County* without a permit from CAL FIRE or a local fire district. As weather warms and humidity levels drop, CAL FIRE will soon announce when burn permits will be required.

Learn Before You Burn

  1. 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.
  2. Check the weather. Avoid burning on dry, windy days.
  3. Burn dry, dead material only such as leaves, pine needles and tree trimmings. Treated wood, household trash, and tires are illegal to burn.
  4. Choose a safe burn site. Avoid overhanging branches, powerlines, and structures.   Allow yourself at least 3x the height of your pile of vertical clearance.
  5. Prepare your site. Clear all flammable material to gravel or dirt at least 10 feet in all directions. Spray the surrounding area with water, keep a water source nearby, and have a shovel on hand.
  6. Keep neighbors happy and avoid smoke nuisance fines by burning hot and clean. Once your flame is strong, slowly add dry pines needles, leaves, or vines which are known to produce large amounts of smoke if burned exclusively.
  7. Keep piles manageable. Add additional material as your pile burns and reduces in size.
  8. Burn between the hours of 9:00am-3:00pm for optimal smoke dispersion.
  9. Stay with your fire and fully extinguish coals with water when you are done. Turn coals and ash over with a shovel, drown your pile with water, and repeat several times. Return to your burn area regularly over the next several days, especially in dry, warm, and windy weather.

*Burn piles are prohibited in the city limits of Grass Valley and Nevada City. A burn permit from the Truckee Fire Protection District is required in the Town of Truckee. Some Homeowner Associations may also require permits or may prohibit burning; inquire with your association for the rules in your neighborhood.

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.

Additional Residential Debris Burning Resources

Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District

CAL FIRE Residential Landscape Debris Burning Safety

Smokey Bear Backyard Debris Burning


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