Cooler weather brings cozy fires! There really is nothing better than sitting around a warm fire, roasting marshmallows, while bundled up in a thick blanket. 

But before you light that fire pit, you need to understand the dos and don’ts of backyard burning. What better way to do that, than in song?

“The Campfire Song Song” by SpongeBob SquarePants

Let’s gather round the campfire
And sing our campfire song

Gathering around the fire is great (sing your song while you’re at it). Fire pits, outdoor fireplaces, grills, and barbecues are okay, just no open burning!

If you’re going to burn for recreational use, there are some things you should keep in mind:

  • Recreational fires should be at least 25 feet away from a structure or combustible material.
  • Only burn seasoned, dry wood, which burns hotter and cleaner.
  • Never burn wood during air quality alert days when air pollution is already higher.  
  • Never leave your fire unattended and make sure its extinguished at the end of the night.

“Burn” by Usher

But you know that it’s over, we knew it was through
Let it burn (Let it burn), let it burn (Let it burn), gotta let it burn

Usher dancing in front of a white car as palm trees burn behind him

Yes, it sounds good to let it burn (metaphorically speaking). Whether it’s your ex’s old gifts or some papers you want to get rid of, you shouldn’t burn them at home. Burning trash (yard waste and debris) is against the law and could lead to an expensive ticket.

Not only is it against the law, but it makes toxic smoke. Plastic or paper with coatings and ink creates particles in the air that are very dangerous to breathe. We know, “the feeling ain’t the same,” but instead of doing it Usher’s way, residents can bring up to 5 bags of household trash for free to a Mecklenburg County full-service recycling center. You can take your wood waste to our centers, too!

“breathin” by Ariana Grande

Just keep breathin’ and breathin’ and breathin’ and breathin’
And oh, I gotta keep, keep on breathin’

There’s no question that wood smoke, or any smoke for that matter, can affect your health. Wood smoke may smell good and give you all the fall feels, but it’s not good for you.

The smoke from wood burning is made up of gases and fine particles that can irritate your respiratory tract. Wood smoke can affect everyone differently. It can be especially harmful to children, the elderly, and people with lung and heart diseases, like asthma. Those in these groups should also pay close attention to air quality alert days.

There are a few ways to reduce wood smoke to keep you “breathin’ and breathin’”. Here are some tips from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):

  • Switching to natural gas or propane reduces harmful air pollutants.
  • Test your wood with a wood moisture meter. 20% moisture or less burns best.
  • Give fires enough air. Never let them smolder.