What Happens If I Burn Brush Without a Permit in NH?

Written by April Weismann on 04/10/2015 07:03 AM in Safety Tips.

burning brush.jpg

When the snow finally begins to melt in NH, many homeowners are looking toward spring and the many hours of yard work ahead.  This typically begins with a growing brush pile as the harsh winds of winter took down many branches, if not entire trees.  So the question is what to do with that brush pile?

Can you burn brush without a permit in New Hampshire?

The easiest, and most fun given the s'more-factor, is to simply burn it.  But can you burn without a permit?  Should you?  What are the risks?  As this is something I have wrestled with myself, I thought this would be a great blog topic. 

Now I realize that most people know about the permit process, but frankly I had the impression that it is simply a pain because I had the following misconceptions:

  • I could only get a permit from the town hall, that has limited hours,
  • It is ok to burn without a permit if it is raining,
  • It costs money to get a permit, and
  • There are no consequences if I don't get a permit.

After doing some research on multiple town websites, here is what I learned:

  • A written permit is required unless the ground is snow covered,
  • A permit is still required in many towns, even if raining,
  • Permits can be obtained at many fire departments and may be available on weekends, including Sundays and holidays,
  • The state of NH allows outdoor burning with a permit from 5:00 to 12:00 pm.  If a permit holder begins fire before 5:00 and the fire department has to be dispatched, that person is held responsible for the Department's expenses and may be billed accordingly, and
  • Any person violating permit law may be subject to a fine up to $2,000 and/or up to one year in jail.

I made a lot of assumptions that were not correct.  Where you live and burn does matter in regards to local ordinances, so check out what you can and can not do before you burn.  Many towns have information on-line.  If your town does not, give the fire department a call.  I am sure they would appreciate the non-911 call before a fire vs. after.  Some towns are even partnering with the NH Forests and Lands Division and allowing permits to be obtained on-line for the small fee of $3.  To see if your town participates in this program, visit the Division of Forests and Lands website.

Here is also a link to several towns within our community regarding burn permits:

I don't know many other household chores that can turn out to be as fun as a bonfire, so grab those marshmallows and some friends and have a bonfire.  Just don't forget the permit. 

Town laws can vary and change, so check with your local ordinance before burning brush or having a bonfire.

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