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New Mexico
Environment Department
Air Quality Bureau

Open Burning

The Open Burning regulation in New Mexico

The Open Burning regulation applies to almost all types of outdoor burning, including trash burning and small-scale weed, yard waste, agricultural, and prescribed burning. The regulation applies statewide, except in Bernalillo County and on Tribal and Pueblo Lands (where NMED does not have authority over air quality).

For complaints about specific open burning incidents, please contact your local NMED Field Office or the Air Quality Bureau in Santa Fe (505-476-4300 or 1-800-224-7009).


Why are trash and vegetation burning regulated?

The primary purpose of the Open Burning regulation is to reduce air pollution and protect human health. An additional reason for limiting open burning is to protect New Mexico’s scenic vistas.

Backyard trash burning is far more harmful to our health than previously thought. The pollutants produced by backyard trash burning can increase the risk of heart disease, aggravate respiratory ailments such as asthma and emphysema, and cause rashes, nausea, or headaches. Backyard trash burning also produces harmful quantities of dioxins, a group of highly toxic chemicals that settle on crops and in our waterways where they eventually wind up in our food and affect our health. Backyard trash burning is the biggest source of dioxin emissions in New Mexico.

The open burning of slash, weeds, and yard waste produces particulate matter and hydrocarbons, which contain a number of toxic, irritant, and carcinogenic (cancer-causing) compounds. The smoke also contains carbon monoxide. The air pollutants produced by burning vegetative material can irritate the lungs, cause breathing problems, trigger asthma attacks, increase the chances of respiratory infection, heart attacks and strokes, and cause cancer. Prescribed fire is needed for the health of New Mexico’s forest and grassland ecosystems, so it is not reasonable to prohibit such burning entirely. Restrictions in this regulation are intended to minimize the impacts of smoke on people, and to prevent burning in residential areas.

Unborn children, newborn infants, smokers, the elderly, and persons with heart and chronic lung disease are more susceptible to these pollutants than the general population.


Specific Provisions of the Open Burning Rule

Permits

  • NMED does not require permits for legal open burning. However, permits may be required by local governments.
  • Burners need to know and follow the state rules for burning

Household trash burning

Vegetation burning

Other types of burning

  • Unrestricted (such as campfires, barbecuing and fireplaces)
  • Burning for firefighter training
  • Emergency burning
  • Hazardous waste burning (in accordance with Hazardous Waste regulations)
  • Key details

Penalties for violations

Under state law (Section 74-2-14 NMSA), violation of the Open Burning regulation is a petty misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500. Anyone may file a complaint in Magistrate Court for violations of this regulation. The New Mexico Environment Department also has authority under state law to assess civil penalties for violations.


Links

US EPA’s Burn Wise web site

Rural Recycling and Solid Waste Management (NM Recycling Coalition website)

Other States’ Open Burning Information:

For questions about the regulation, please contact:

John Lutz
New Mexico Air Quality Bureau
525 Camino de los Marquez, Suite 2
Santa Fe, NM 87505-1816
Phone: (505) 476-4300, or toll-free at 1-800-224-7009
Fax: (505) 476-4375
E-mail:
jon.lutz@state.nm.us

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