B.C. Air Quality

Land Clearing

Land-clearing open burning refers to the combustion of big piles of unwanted stumps and roots, branches and leaves resulting from forestry, construction and agriculture activities — and to make way for highways and utility corridors. The smoke from these fires can pollute the local air, and also travel far from its source, blanketing an entire airshed for days. Stumps and roots are often encrusted with mud, making for a very dense smoke plume.

Using fire to get rid of construction and agricultural debris causes special problems because noncombustible and toxic materials are often burned along with the wood and other vegetation. This includes tires (used as fire accelerants) and plastics. Burning toxic materials can release very harmful emissions.

Burning for land clearing is governed by the Open Burning Smoke Control Regulation. This regulation is meant to control and reduce emissions from open burning. It is also intended to encourage the reduction and reuse of vegetative debris, to make such products as wood chips and compost.

For an overview of the regulation, see A Guide to the Open Burning Smoke Control Regulation. Note that the Government of British Columbia is reviewing and revising this regulation. See Proposed Changes to the Open Burning Smoke Control Regulation.

To learn more about the issues surrounding open burning in agricultural operations, visit Agricultural Burning. Broader information on land clearing in this brochure, published by the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture and Lands: Farm Practices: Land Clearing (PDF: 131 KB/3 pages).

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