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Neighbourhood smoke: burnoffs, fitpits and wood heaters



As the weather cools, Eurobodalla Council is reminding residents that open burning in residential areas, particularly of rubbish and green vegetation, is not permitted.

Council’s acting environmental services manager Nathan Ladmore says this includes burning dead and dry vegetation in incinerators and bonfires.

“Burning rubbish, leaf litter and other vegetation at residential premises can cause smoke, resulting in poor localised air quality, environmental nuisance and harm to human health,” he said.

“Smoke can have significant impacts on young people and the elderly, as well as people with pre-existing respiratory issues such as asthma.”

In NSW, backyard burning is regulated by the Protection of the Environment Operations (Clean Air) Regulation 2010.

The Regulation does allow for some exemptions for small fires, including for cooking or recreational purposes, covering things like fire-pits, braziers, pizza ovens and barbecues.


Council also implements its own Clean Air Policy to protect the environment and health and amenity of residents and visitors by outlining conditions where burning can take place.

“Burning vegetation is restricted to areas that are a safe distance away from major roads, infrastructure, and residential areas,” Mr Ladmore said.

“At least 24 hours before burning, you must notify the NSW RFS Fire Control Centre and adjoining neighbours of your intention to burn.”

Council officers and the RFS can undertake action for established breaches of the Regulation, including on-the-spot fines.

Approval to burn dead and dry vegetation can be given automatically via self-assessment of the conditions outlined in Council’s Clean Air Policy. The policy, and more information, is HERE. Also of concern is Wood Smoke from solid fuel heaters. This type of smoke is one of the most common causes of air pollution in Eurobodalla Shire. The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage estimate that in some towns and cities in NSW, around 30% of total annual emissions of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) are emitted from wood-burning heaters. On a winter weekend, wood-burning heaters may be responsible for more than 60% of fine particle pollution. If you can see or smell smoke from your wood heater then you are causing a problem for yourself, your family and your neighbours. Solid fuel burning in the home provides an effective economical and attractive method of heating however, the installation of solid fuel heating devices has the potential to create significant problems with respect to fire hazard, environmental pollution and nuisance to adjoining properties. Pollutants in wood smoke include: noxious gases such as carbon monoxide, organic compounds, including air toxins fine particles formed when unburnt gases cool as they travel up the chimney; in the air, these can be seen as white smoke. Health NSW advise more air pollution is produced during fire start up and when a fire is poorly managed - for example, when airflow to the heater is reduced allowing wood to smoulder. Improperly installed heaters or clogged chimneys may increase the amount of air pollution inside the home and increase the likelihood of health effects. "Never leave a fire smouldering overnight and check your chimney - if there is visible smoke from it increase the airflow to the fire" Health NSW


VIDEO: Wood smoke tips NSW Environment Protection Authority

The EPA says that Wood smoke pollution from neighbouring chimneys is the source of many complaints to local councils throughout NSW. Eurobodalla Council advises on their website that "Should you have a problem with air emissions, always attempt to discuss the issue directly with the person responsible for the nuisance in order to try and achieve a solution. Agree on a definite timeframe to do something about the problem. If the situation has not changed after that time, it may then be necessary to contact the appropriate authority" In this case, as advised by the EPA, the appropriate authority is Eurobodalla Council on 4474 1000

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