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Skip Navigation LinksDNREC : Division of Air Quality : AgBurn

Citizens Guide to Agricultural Burning


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Vegetation management objectives typically used for agricultural open burning include:

  • Pest control
  • Livestock habitat improvement
  • Crop residue removal
  • Wildfire training
  • Agricultural field maintenance
  • Initial establishment of an agricultural practice on previously uncultivated land

Qualifying for a Permit
Applicants must submit an Application for Agricultural Burning. Applicants must 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.

Requesting a Date to Burn
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 permit. It is recommended the applicant enter a date convenient for them.  If the permit 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.

Landowner’s Approval
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.

Issued Permits
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 a permit has been issued.

How Much Material May Be Burned
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.

Burning Over Multiple Days
Each permit is initially issued for a specific day. All burning activity must cease by 4 p.m. on the permitted day. The Division of Air Quality must be updated prior to each additional day that is needed to burn. No new permits are issued for these additional days; rather, the initial permit is updated internally. 

Using a Fire Company
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 house, 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.

Demolition of Agricultural Structures
Agricultural burning does not include the demolition of structures customarily provided in conjunction with the agricultural operation. These structures may qualify for demolition via firefighting instruction.

Burning Agricultural Waste
Burning waste produced from agricultural operations is strictly prohibited. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Garbage/Trash
  • Paper
  • Cardboard
  • Animal waste matter

Notifying the County Fire Board
Before conducting an agricultural burn, a permit holder must notify their local county fire board and submit their approval number. Fire board numbers are:

  • New Castle County   302-571-7331
  • Kent County             302-734-6040
  • Sussex County         302-856-6306

Seasonal Restrictions
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 burning ban prohibiting open burning activity in one county or statewide.

The National Weather Service may issue a red flag warning cautioning against open burning activity due to unfavorable weather conditions that may result in dangerous fire conditions.

For more information contact:
Gerald Mood

Revised 06/10/16

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