Legal Insight. Business Instinct.

Rules for the old burn barrel

Out back of the house near the garden, hidden behind a hill of wildflowers, is my burn barrel. The burn barrel has long since lost its coat of paint, smoked away with the first hot fire. The barrel had a former life as a 55 gallon drum containing some forgotten liquid. It now stands ready to consume whatever I might ignite.

There are rules in Idaho for what I may, or may not, burn in my burn barrel. It is illegal in Idaho to burn garbage and most human-made substances in your burn barrel, or anywhere else on your proprety. Plastics, hazardous waste, paint, tires, household garbage, and dead animals are all forbidden fodder. The Rules for the Control of Air Pollution in Idaho, IDAPA 58.01.01, also prohibit burning of motor vehicle parts, asphalt, rubber materials, tar, and other human-made substances. These rules are designed to protect air quality in the State.

Idaho law does allow for the use of open outdoor fires under certain conditions and for certain purposes. Unless a burn ban is in effect (based on weather and air quality conditions) you may burn rubbish, tree leaves, yard trimmings, and gardening waste. You are also allowed to burn weeds along fence lines, canal banks and ditch banks.

Idaho law also allows for fires for food preparation or for recreational purposes, such as barbeques and campfires.

Also, keep in mind that if you live within city limits, there may be city ordinances that prohibit open fires on your property.

The burn barrel has been a convenient place to stuff a tumbleweed, or a few tree branches until I’m ready to light a fire and burn. It’s also good for tossing the left-over twine from the hay bales. Just keep in mind when you burn that some things are fine for the burn barrel, and some things belong in the trash can.

– Lance J. Schuster is a lawyer at Beard St. Clair Gaffney. He and his wife raise kids and cattle on their small farm near Idaho Falls. He can be reached at 523-5171 or

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