What is seasonal burning?

Seasonal burning is the burning of clean, untreated wood or natural vegetation for disposal without using equipment to minimize emissions.

What is a seasonal burning ban?

This is a period of time where burning is not allowed.  In Hamilton County, the seasonal burning ban is from May 1 to September 30.

By restricting burning we can decrease summertime air pollution by at least four tons per day.  This control measure helps reduce overall pollution levels, helping us to maintain acceptable air quality levels in Hamilton County.  We ask citizens to help keep the air clean by composting, chipping or recycling your leaves and brush.  If you have any questions, please contact the Bureau at 423-643-5970.

Why is burning limited to certain times of the year?

In the 1960's, Chattanooga was the most polluted city in the United States.  The Air Pollution Control Bureau was founded to remediate and regulate this problem.  We have come a long way since those days, but it is a constant challenge to maintain acceptable air quality levels as set forth by the EPA.

In 2004, after EPA tightened air quality standards, Hamilton County implemented several air quality control measures adopted as part of the Chattanooga Area Early Action Compact (EAC).  One of the control measures implemented was seasonal burning because it is a proven method of controlling air quality.

Do I need a permit to burn?

Yes.  The burning of clean, untreated wood or natural vegetation is allowed in Hamilton County from October 1 through April 30 with a permit from the Air Pollution Control Bureau.  The permit expires April 30 and a new permit is needed each year.

Why do I need a permit to burn on my own property?

Burning is a major source of air pollution.  When a person burns, the smoke leaves the property and is breathed by neighbors and others in the area. 

How do I obtain a burning permit?

Visit the Burning Permits page for information and instructions.

The Bureau issues two types of burning permits depending on where you live in Hamilton County.

City Permit

Residents of Chattanooga, Collegedale, East Ridge, Red Bank, and Ridgeside receive a City Permit.  This permit requires a $50 non-refundable processing fee and requires an inspection by the Bureau Investigator.  The burn site and the material to be burned will be inspected to ensure that air pollution regulations will be followed.  These cities offer free curbside pickup of leaves and yard waste.

County Permit

Residents in other parts of Hamilton County receive County Permits.  Depending on the location of the burning site, an inspection might be necessary.  This will be determined by the information obtained in the application.  There is a $5 non-refundable processing fee for all County Permits.

When is a burning permit not required?

Burning permits are not required for fire training purposes, warming fires, cooking fires or recreational fires (example - campfire).  However, we advise you to contact your local fire department in advance.  A recreational fire only burns clean, untreated wood, and is limited to a size of 3 feet by 2 feet - anything else is considered a violation.  These fires should be tended to at all times.

Is it okay to burn in a barrel or pit without a burning permit?

No.  Burning in a barrel or pit is safer, but produces the same polluting smoke.

What is not allowed to be burned?

The Bureau only allows the burning of brush and leaves.  All other items are illegal to burn.  A detailed list of items that are not allowed to be burned and the proper disposal method for those items is available.