Pile Burning

Pile burning is an affordable and effective way to dispose of brush and woody vegetation around your house. Learning how to construct and prepare burn piles takes skill, good equipment, and an understanding of the current and predicted weather to minimize the risk of escape.

How To Construct a Burn Pile 

  • Build your pile with cured materials. Make sure the materials have dried for 1 month (0-2 inch diameter), 2 months (2-6”), or > 6 months (≥ 6”).
  • Ensure proper pile size. Note for Residential Pile Burning, when CAL FIRE Residential Burn Status is "Permit Required", residential burn piles must be less that 4' x 4' in size. 
  • Be mindful of vertical clearance and topography. Make sure piles have at least 10’ of clearance on all sides from other vegetation, have no vegetation directly overhead, and are at least 100’ from all structures.
  • Cover your pile to ensure a safe, clean burn. Covering will keep your pile dry in rain and allow you to burn in wet conditions.
  • Do not burn trash, treated wood, or piles consisting of mostly grass, leaves, or conifer needles.

Additional Pile Building Tips

  1. Build your pile on the flattest ground possible. Orient logs
    perpendicular to the contour to minimize rollout.
  2. If you build your pile on a hill, dig a “roll out” trench just below the pile to prevent hot coals or logs from rolling downhill.
  3. The more vertical the sides of your pile are, the cleaner it burns.
  4. You can use burn pile paper, which is safe to burn, or a tarp that you remove before you ignite the pile.

Air quality and CAL FIRE/local fire permitting and regulations will vary based on the type of pile burning you are doing and where your property is located. Contact your local Air Quality Management District office and CAL FIRE/local fire station for more information.

For more information and tips about pile burning, check out our YouTube playlist about pile burning! This playlist covers the fundamentals of pile construction and burning, safety and liability considerations, weather forecasting and interpretation, and navigating the permitting process (CAL FIRE and local air quality districts). Whether you have been burning piles for years or are just getting started, these videos something for everyone!