What can be burned?
The state allows residents to burn small amounts of clean, non-banned recyclable paper generated at home, unless prohibited by local ordinances. You must obtain a free burning permit from a ranger station or fire warden before burning anything. Be sure to contact local government representatives or ask a fire warden about local restrictions when you request a permit. Your regional DNR waste specialist can also answer questions about what can and can't be burned.
Campfires and bonfires
State regulations allow fires for cooking, ceremonies or recreation, except when Emergency Burning Restrictions are in effect. A DNR wildfire prevention burning permit is not needed for these types of fires. Some local ordinances may be more restrictive, so make sure to check with your local officials on local fire regulations.
Check the daily fire danger before ignition and never leave a fire unattended. You may be held responsible for fire suppression costs and any damages associated with an improperly controlled fire.
Burning on frozen waterways
Having a fire for warming or cooking purposes on the frozen surface of a lake or river is allowed as long as the materials being burned do not violate Wisconsin open burning requirements and as long as the burn is not in violation of any local ordinances. After the burn, it is important to remove any debris, ash or unburned materials left behind into avoid violation of the littering law[exit DNR]. It is recommended to use a portable fire pit for easy clean-up and removal.
Can I burn yard materials?
State regulations allow individual households to burn small amounts of organic materials like dry leaves, grass clippings and other woody vegetation after obtaining a DNR or local burn permit. However, this is discouraged because of air pollution and smoke.
Instead, yard materials can be composted in backyard bins or may be collected at the curb by municipality composting programs. Dry natural fibers and clean, untreated wood and similar materials can be burned unless prohibited by local ordinance. This allowance does not apply to commercial and government entities.
Burning household yard waste is allowed when both of the following are met:
- the materials were created by normal household activities; and
- the material is burned on the individual household's property (not transported to another property and burned).
What are safe disposal options?
The DNR recommends these alternative to burning.
- Reduce your use of disposable items by purchasing similar products in recyclable materials. Buy in bulk or larger sizes to reduce the number of containers you generate
- Reuse what you can. For example, bring unwanted household items to resale stores; bring plastic and paper bags with you when you shop. Use plastic tubs to store leftovers instead of purchasing ready-made food storage containers.
- See Waste Disposal Options for more information on DNR recommendations for alternatives to burning.