Before you strike that match, know Florida’s burn laws

As the county-wide burn bans lift, the Florida Forest Service, Okeechobee District wants to remind residents to burn responsibly. Burning yard waste does not require a burn authorization from the Florida Forest Service as long as your burn meets the required setbacks and there are no local, city or county ordinances in place that prohibit burning.

In some urbanized cities, open burning is prohibited; check with your local Florida Forest Service before you burn. The Florida Forest Service can also provide you with specific spacing requirements and burning hours for your area before you strike that match. In general, locate the fire 150 feet away from your neighbor’s house and at least 25 feet away from your house, any fences on the property, garden sheds, and the garage. If your property backs up to a grassland or a woodland area, light the fire at least 25 feet inside your property line.

“Keep your yard waste fire no more than eight feet in diameter and create a fire break – a bare dirt area the same height and circumference as the fire – around the burn area,” explains Forest Area Supervisor Trevor Taylor with the Florida Forest Service. “Add to the fire as it burns down rather than creating one massive pile. Before you light, get a hose ready and keep a shovel and metal rake on hand. A shovel allows you to smother sparks and fire with dirt in an emergency while the rake allows you to quickly return logs or branches that roll off the fire.”

Burn only yard waste from your own property, such as leaves, small branches, grass, and other yard clippings. It is illegal to burn household garbage such as plastic, bleached paper, pharmaceuticals, tires, used oil, and any treated wood. It is also illegal to burn construction garbage such as asbestos containing materials, roofing materials, and asphalt.

Fires need your constant attention so plan to burn on a day when you can be there the whole time. Limit burning yard waste to windless days, or as near windless as possible. If the wind is blowing more than 10 miles per hour, hold off. Don’t leave, even for a minute without getting someone to watch it for you. When you’re finished burning, douse the fire with water and spread out the coals. Keep dousing and spreading the coals until the entire area feels cold to the touch.

If your yard waste fire escapes, you may be held liable for costs of suppression and damages that occur. Call your local Florida Forest Service for more information.

Note: Piles greater than eight feet in diameter will require: authorization from the Florida Forest Service; suppression equipment on scene; and meeting additional setback requirements.

The Florida Forest Service, a division of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, manages more than one million acres of state forests, provides management assistance on more than 17 million acres of private and community forests, while protecting homes, forestland and natural resources from the devastating effects of wildfire on more than 26 million acres. Learn more at

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