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Farmers may conduct agricultural burning for crop residue, field maintenance, and land clearing for agricultural operations. This does not include clearing land in order to construct structures, even those used in conjunction with agricultural operations.
Vegetation management objectives typically used for agricultural open burning include:
Applicants must submit an Application for Agricultural Burning, and request to burn on land that has been zoned for agricultural use. Commercially or residentially zoned parcels will not qualify. The land must currently be used or intended to be used primarily for the purpose of obtaining a profit by raising, harvesting and selling crops or by raising and selling livestock or poultry. This also includes activities conducted by not-for-profit agricultural research organizations, for activities necessary to serve that purpose.
A specific date to burn is requested on the Application for Agricultural Burning. This is required in order to process the application and issue a written approval. It is recommended the applicant enter a date convenient for them. If the application is approved and the applicant cannot burn due to any reason, including weather conditions (rain, wind, etc.), simply contact the Division of Air Quality via phone or email to reschedule your burn. This may be done as many times as is necessary in order to complete the burn. No additional paperwork is required.
Tenant farmers or those leasing their farms from property owners must have the landowner’s approval to burn. The application for agricultural burning requires a signature from the landowner.
An applicant must wait to burn until their application has been processed and approved, even if their requested date has been met or passed. The applicant will receive authorization through email, fax, or the postal service once written approval has been issued.
There is no limit to the amount of acreage or the number of piles that may be burned. However, burning is only allowed between 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Vegetation must be piled no larger than what may be expected to burn within this time frame.
Each written approval is initially issued for a specific day. All burning activity must cease by 4 p.m. on the approved day. The Division of Air Quality must be updated prior to each additional day that is needed to burn. No new written approvals are issued for these additional days; rather, the initial approval is updated internally.
Occasionally, a fire company is asked to conduct an agricultural burn for safety reasons. This is allowed and does not require any paperwork from the fire company. However, it is still considered an agricultural burn, and requires an Application for Agricultural Burning.
The ability to utilize open burning for purposes of clearing land does not apply to land on which residential, industrial or commercial housing, dwellings or other structures are constructed within a period of five years after the land clearing by burning takes place. This includes the construction of structures customarily used in conjunction with the agricultural operation.
Agricultural burning for the purpose of clearing land for the establishment of an agricultural practice on previously uncultivated land is allowed.
Agricultural burning does not include the demolition of structures customarily used in conjunction with the agricultural operation. However, these structures may qualify for demolition via firefighting instruction.
Burning waste produced from agricultural operations is strictly prohibited. This includes, but is not limited to:
Before conducting an agricultural burn, those with written approvals must notify their local county fire board and submit their approval number. The county fire board phone numbers are:
New Castle County: 302-571-7331
Kent County: 302-734-6040
Sussex County: 302-856-6306
Agricultural open burning is prohibited statewide during the Ozone Season from May 1 – Sept. 30 each year.
Agricultural open burning is also prohibited on Air Quality Action Days when the State’s air quality has been forecast by the Regional Air Quality Partnership (AQP) to be unhealthy. This includes days on which an approval may have already been granted. Forecasts are provided on this website and also by calling the Air Quality Partnership Information Line at 1-800-872-7261. Check the forecast daily and take the proper actions to determine if an action day has been forecasted prohibiting open burning activity.
The Delaware State Fire Marshal may also issue a ban against open burning activity in individual counties or statewide.
The National Weather Service may issue a red flag warning against open burning activity due to unfavorable weather conditions that may result in dangerous fire conditions.