Why Does MassDEP Prohibit Open Burning on “No Burn” Days?

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Open burning pollutes the air and can make it difficult for people with
respiratory problems to breathe. When the air is stagnant, open burning can
create smoke and odor nuisances – and health risks – for nearby residents,
particularly in populated areas. On “good air” days, existing pollution levels are
low and air circulates well. During the “open burning season” (which runs from
January 15 to May 1), open burning is allowed in Massachusetts only on days
when BOTH air quality and fire safety conditions are acceptable. Local fire
departments make decisions about fire safety, and MassDEP decides whether
the air quality on each day is good enough to allow open burning.

What is MassDEP’s decision based on?

MassDEP’s Air Pollution Regulation (310 CMR 7.07) authorizes the
Department to prohibit open burning on days when it may cause or contribute
to a condition of air pollution. MassDEP develops a daily air quality forecast
based on models and analyses from the National Weather Service, and on
data from state and regional air quality monitors. In general, “no burn”
announcements are issued when:

• The Air Quality Index for Massachusetts and nearby areas of upwind states
is “moderate” or higher (fine particle concentrations are at or above 12
micrograms/cubic meter) early in the morning,

• The weather forecast is for light winds, which will not mix smoke from fires
with cleaner air, allowing the smoke to linger over neighborhoods, and

• Air flow into Massachusetts is coming from the southwest, which draws in
polluted air from urban areas south and west of Massachusetts and can
raise pollution levels here.

In these conditions, smoke from open burning will add pollution to air that is
already polluted, making a bad situation worse. Adults with respiratory
conditions (e.g., asthma) and heart problems and children can be especially
affected by air pollution.

MassDEP may prohibit open burning in specific fire districts or statewide,
depending on the conditions on a particular day.

Where can I find information on air quality conditions in my area?

The MassDEP web site shows air quality forecasts and real-time pollution
levels at all of the air monitors across the state that collect data continuously: