Air Quality and Smoke Management

Burning off and smoke management

Important note: Find out abut burning periods and fire permits.

Smoke can be dangerous for people with existing respiratory problems such as the very young and elderly.

If you are planning to burn off, it is important to ensure that any smoke produced, does not become a nuisance to neighbours.

When burning off:

  • Provide your neighbours with plenty of notice of your intention to burn
  • Check weather conditions to ensure that high winds are not present
  • Attend to the fire at all times
  • Avoid burning damp, wet or green material.

Alternatively, burning off can be avoided all together by mulching or composting any vegetative waste generated. You can also dispose of garden waste at the Community Recycling Centre (free of charge for residents).

Smoke management

While burning garden refuse can be a convenient way of removing dead plant material from your property there are some things you should consider before lighting any fire.

Is there an alternative to burning off?

There are many alternatives available for the disposal of garden refuse:

  • Residents and ratepayers have free, unlimited entry to the Shire's Community Recycling Centres for disposal of waste plant material.
  • Garden waste can be chipped into mulch or composted.

Be a good neighbour

Always give your neighbours plenty of notice of your intention to burn. This will give them time to get the washing off the line or make arrangements for any person with respiratory issues who may be badly affected by smoke.

You should also be prepared to reschedule your burn in the event that a neighbour has planned an outside activity on their property on the same day. Things like children's birthday parties or family get-togethers can be spoiled by a smoke nuisance so be prepared to be flexible and reschedule.

Check the weather conditions

Weather conditions can have an impact on how smoke from your burn will affect your neighbours.

On days when the upper layer of the atmosphere is warmer than the air at ground level smoke, smoke can be trapped under an inversion layer and can take a long time to disperse.

Always check with the Bureau of Meteorology to make sure they have not issued a haze alert and check the weather conditions in your local area.

If smoke from other fires is visible as a flat and distinct low level layer then any smoke you produce is also likely to be trapped and cause a possible nuisance.

Light winds can aid in dispersing smoke but take care that the direction of the wind does not blow the smoke across roads or highways causing further hazards. Also make sure that forecast winds won’t be too strong and make the fire difficult to contain.

Avoid burning green or wet plant material

Plant material that is green, partly green or wet from the rain will create more smoke than dry material. It will not burn efficiently and piles of smouldering material can create long lasting smoke hazards.

Only burn dry dead material to minimise the amount of smoke produced.

If you have been stockpiling material, cover it with a tarpaulin or use some other means to keep it dry until you are able to burn it. Even if the plant material is dead, if it has been wet in recent rains it will not burn efficiently and will create a lot of smoke. This is particularly true of a pile of leaves that has been sitting uncovered for a while. The top layer may look dry but the material underneath may be wet.

Control the load

It is best to have a smaller fire and gradually add more material.

Dumping a lot of leaves and twigs in one hit on a fire may smother the active flame and lead to more smoke being produced.

All fires should be fully extinguished before you leave them so only burn as much as you can manage in one episode and make sure it is fully out with no smoke being produced before you leave it.

Use the Winter burning technique on larger properties

On larger properties it may be more effective to use the Winter Burning technique to dispose of leaf litter and other fuel where it has fallen.

Shire of Mundaring runs workshops in June/July every year to assist residents and ratepayers to learn how to carry out safe and manageable burns on their properties during winter months. Check out our Events and Workshops calendar in the Winter months.

If you are going to carry out a ‘patch burn’ rather than a pile burn you still need to consider the smoke you will be producing. It is best, if burning in the cooler months to burn after a period of five to 10 days of no rain and/or sunny weather.

Chimney smoke

Firewood heaters and firewood stoves are used by many Shire residents.

Wood smoke resulting from the burning of firewood and other materials contains a mix of chemicals and particles which can be a nuisance and in some instances, hazardous to human health when inhaled.

Some ways to reduce smoke pollution include:

  • Storing firewood in a dry, ventilated place and only burning dry wood
  • Using plenty of kindling and paper to establish an efficient flame
  • Maintaining air circulation in the firebox
  • Keeping air controls fully open for 10 minutes after lighting or refuelling
  • Getting the flue checked and cleaned by a professional before winter begins
  • Observing smoke produce leaving chimney and checking excess smoke
  • Never burning rubbish or chemically treated wood.

Dust

Dust and sand drift can be a nuisance to the community. Management of dust is particularly important in dry weather due to less water content and vegetation in the environment and wind.

Residents are responsible for preventing sand or dust causing a nuisance, whether it affects private land or Shire land, such as verges, footpaths and roads.

Some ways to reduce dust and sand drift include:

  • Wind fencing
  • Applying water
  • Hydro mulching
  • Chemical stabilisation/binding agents
  • Covering all piles of sand or other building material.

See also: Motorbikes and Quad Bikes (Noise and Dust)

More information, complaints and contacts

For more information or to make a smoke or dust complaint please contact the Shire’s Health Services on 9290 6742 or email shire@mundaring.wa.gov.au