Land Clearing

Land-clearing open burning is the burning of uprooted or cleared vegetation in connection with the construction of buildings; right-of-way; residential, commercial, or industrial development; mining activities; or initial clearing of vegetation to enhance property value. It does not include routine maintenance or property cleanup activities. Absolutely no man-made material may be burned.

Registration and an office visit are required for land clearing open burning! Due to the growing population of Forsyth County, land-clearing open burning has become very difficult to perform without incurring violations and civil penalties. Under the authority of the Forsyth County Air Quality Technical Code, the Director is requiring all persons wanting to land-clear open burn to complete a registration form detailing the site conditions of the proposed burning and acknowledging an understanding of the conditions under which this activity will be performed. They should also call to set up an appointment to come to the Department and go over the burning activity, distances, and regulations with our staff. Call 703-2440 for more information. Print a Registration Form for Land Clearing Open Burning.

NCDFR logoIn addition to meeting the Forsyth County regulations relating to Open Burning, a permit is also required by the N.C. Divison of Forest Resources. Go to the Online Burning Permit System.

Land-Clearing Open Burning Regulations

A notice of violation with a civil penalty will be incurred even for first time offenses. The fines for first time violations range from $50 to $5,000 per day, per violation. Additional violations may incur up to $25,000 per day, per violation.

  • A burning ban or ozone alert supercedes all other regulations that may otherwise allow for open burning. The burning bans are authorized through the Forsyth County Fire Dept. and/or the N.C. Forest Service when atmospheric conditions or local circumstances make burning hazardous. Open burning may not be initiated when the Forsyth County Office of Environmental Assistance and Protection has forecasted an Ozone Action Day Code of Orange or above. View the Air Quality Forecast.
  • You should call the N.C. Forest Service - Forsyth County Headquarters prior to any land-clearing open burning. They may require a permit and site visit prior to any land-clearing open burning activity. Call (336) 767-7269 regarding N.C. Forest Service requirements. Permits issued by the Forest Service do not preclude the adherence to all air quality regulations and the registration of this activity with this Department.
  • Siting Requirements - The location of the burning must be at least 1,000 feet from any dwelling, group of dwellings, or commercial or institutional establishment, or other occupied structure not located on the property on which the burning is conducted. The setback requirements for air curtain burners are less restrictive than open land clearing burning. A 500-foot setback is required when air curtain burners are used. Air curtain burners must be operated correctly and carefully in accordance with strict code requirements. These requirements can be obtained by calling the Department at 703-2440 or by visiting us at our office on the 5th floor of the Government Center, 201 North Chestnut Street, Winston-Salem. Requests for waivers to the setback requirements must be reviewed and signed off on by the Director. Print a Land-Clearing Setback Waiver form. Even if complete and signed by all residents within the setback distance, your project is not automatically approved. All details of the burn site, distances, addresses, etc. must be very clear (faxes are usually too muddled to evaluate properly) with all buildings that could be occupied during the period of the burn. Residents do not sign away their right to be protected from impact from your fire and civil penalties may still be issued should impacts occur.
  • Prevailing winds at the time of the burning must be away from any area, including public roads within 250 feet of the burning as measured from the edge of the pavement or other roadway surface, which may be affected by smoke, ash or other air pollutants from the burning. Even though setback requirements may be met, it is still possible to violate the code if smoke from a land clearing fire affects any area outside of the setback distances. Pay attention to wind direction forecasts and actual wind direction at the time of initiating the fire. This is the issue that has provoked the most fines from the Department even when setback conditions are met. View the wind forecast in this area.
  • Only vegetation originating on the cleared site may be burned on that site. Burning may be initiated only between the hours of 8 AM and 6 PM with no additional combustible material added to the fire between 6 PM on one day and 8 AM the following day.
  • No fires should be left unattended, and fire safety laws require that all fires should occur at least 50 to 100 feet from a structure depending on whether it is a residential or land-clearing open burning activity. A nearby water supply and/or fire extinguishing equipment should be readily available. All fire safety questions should be directed to the Forsyth County Fire Department at (336) 727-8084.

View Flow Chart for Compliance to Land Clearing Regulations

For additional information, contact:

  • Forsyth County Fire Department: 703-2550
  • N.C. Division of Forest Resources: 767-7269
  • Winston-Salem Fire Department: 773-7900

For more information or to report an open burning problem, call us at 703-2440.