Vegetation Burning – Key Requirements
Burning must be at least 300 feet from any neighboring dwelling, workplace, or other place where people congregate on other property. This is to allow the smoke to disperse before it can impact a neighbor.
Time of Day
Burning is only allowed from 1 hour after sunrise until 1 hour before sunset (this is to prevent burning when nighttime atmospheric inversions can trap smoke near the ground).
Burning must be attended at all times (because the burner is responsible for making sure the burn stays within the setback limits and is extinguished).
Firefighting authority for the area must be notified prior to burning, and any safety restrictions they impose take precedence over permission to burn granted by this regulation (because the Environment Department does not have authority for preventing wildfires, the local fire authorities do).
If the burn will exceed 1 acre per day, or 100 cubic feet of piled material per day, the burner must provide prior notice of the date and location of the burn to neighbors within 1/4 mile of the burn (this is to allow neighbors who might be especially sensitive to the smoke to leave or take other precautions during the burning).
Fuel can be used to ignite the burning, but not oil heavier than No. 2 diesel, and no more than the minimum amount necessary to start the burning.
Prior to igniting a burn, burners must consider alternatives to burning (see below).
The material burned must be as dry as practicable (see below for recommended drying times).
“Pile volume” refers to the overall volume of the pile, including the air space between the solid materials. Pile volume can be calculated from the overall dimensions (length, width, height) of the pile.
A simple, approximate calculation is to multiply the length times the width times the height of the pile in feet. For example, a pile that is 10 feet wide, 5 feet long, and 3 feet high would have an approximate volume of:
Length X Width X Height = volume in cubic feet
10 ft. X 5 ft. X 3 ft. = 150 cubic feet
This simple method assumes the pile has straight sides, so it overestimates the volume of rounded piles. If you use this method and determine that your pile volume is less than the 1,000 cubic foot threshold between the Open Burning Regulation and the Smoke Management Regulation, then you can be sure that your burn is small enough to be covered by the Open Burning Regulation.
Pile volume can be calculated more precisely using complex geometric formulas that take into account the rounded shape of most piles. More information on these methods is available in the Smoke Management Program Guidance Document, Appendix K (“Guidance on How to Calculate Fuel Loading”).
Mixtures of piled and non-piled material
To determine daily burn amount when you are burning a combination of piled and nonpiled material, convert the pile volume to equivalent acreage at the rate of 100 cubic feet equals 1 acre, and add this to the acreage of non-piled material.
Alternatives to Burning
In this regulation, an alternative to burning refers to any method of removing or reducing fuels by mechanical, biological, or chemical treatments that replaces the use of fire. Detailed information is provided in Appendix C (“Alternatives to Burning”) of the Smoke Management Program Guidance Document.
Alternatives to burning could include:
- Composting – You can start a compost pile in your back yard. You can compost most organic material including leaves, grass clippings, coffee grounds, fruit, vegetables, and some livestock manure (but not pig, cat or dog droppings). Finished compost will provide excellent garden nutrients. For a free composting brochure, contact contact the Solid Waste Bureau of the New Mexico Environment Department, 505-827-0197, or visit the web site of the New Mexico Recycling Coalition.
- Mowing – Frequent mowing will keep weeds from growing up and creating a fire hazard. The cut material can often be left in place, crushed or incorporated into the soil. Mowing, and then allowing the weeds to dry before piling and burning them will greatly reduce the amount of smoke produced.
- Mechanical removal – Slash, brush and weeds can be chipped and used as mulch, and/or hauled to a disposal facility or biomass utilization facility. See if your local area has a chipper or a designated facility for disposal of yard waste and slash. For information on facilities that will take yard waste, slash, and cut trees for recycling and utilization, contact the Solid Waste Bureau of the New Mexico Environment Department, 505-827-0197, or visit the web site of the New Mexico Recycling Coalition.
Recommended minimum drying times
Dry material burns hotter and undergoes more complete combustion, so less smoke and toxic air pollutants are produced. If practicable, allow green or live material to dry after cutting for at least the following minimum times:
- Trees and branches over 6 inches in diameter – 60 days
- Brush, vines, bushes, prunings and small branches – 15 days
- Field crops and weeds – 7 days
NM Smoke Management Program & Regulation
Chart: Open Burning Regulation vs Smoke Management Regulation (vegetation burning section) (Adobe Acrobat format)
NM Air Quality Bureau Smoke Management web page
Air Quality Bureau
Attn: Smoke Management Program
New Mexico Environment Department
525 Camino de los Marquez, Suite 1
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505
Phone: (505) 476-4330
Toll-Free: (800) 224-7009, ext. 4330 (or ask for Smoke Management)
Fax: (505) 476-4375