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New Burning Permit Process Goes Live - 01/11/12


Open Burning Season Permit Process Goes Live

GOSHEN, MA If you're like most Bay Staters, you spend a lot of your time in the spring preparing your lawn and garden for the warm months of renewal and growth ahead.  A big part of your job is cleaning up tree limbs, brush and other remnants of wind, snow and ice storms - and figuring out what to do with all that debris.

Open burning might be the first thing that comes to your mind.  While it is still allowed in most Massachusetts towns and cities, open burning has its distinct disadvantages.  The combustion process releases large amounts of carbon dioxide, other gases, and solid substances directly into the air for people to breathe.  And, of course, disposal of materials is never as good for the environment as using them again in a different form.  Natural debris can be chipped or composted into landscaping material.

Still, there are times when open burning is the best or only option.  Even then, there are limits on what can be burned and when, as well as important public health and safety requirements.

The Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) and the Goshen Fire Department limit open burning for public health and safety reasons.  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 pose smoke and odor nuisances - and health risks - to nearby residents, particularly in densely populated areas.  Open burning can also pose a safety risk when it is not adequately controlled. The limits on open burning do not apply to outdoor cooking.

Goshen residents are allowed to burn brush, cane, driftwood and forestry debris - not including grass, hay, leaves or stumps - between January 15 and May 1, so long as the open burning takes place:

  • With the permission of the Goshen Fire Department;
  • Between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.;
  • When air is circulating well but without high winds, and the MassDEP air quality forecast (also available at the MassDEP Open Burning Hotline at 617-556-1021) is "good" for ozone (after April 1) and fine particles;
  • No less than 75 feet away from all dwellings; and
  • On your own property and as close as possible to the source of material(s) to be burned.

Fungus-infected elmwood and other materials normally associated with agriculture and agricultural land clearing - such as tree prunings, dead raspberry stalks, blueberry patches for pruning purposes - and disease-infected beehives may also be burned with fire department permission.

There are no circumstances under which it is legal to burn grass, hay, leaves, stumps or tires. They simply do not burn as "cleanly" as those materials that may legally be burned.  All of them produce acrid smoke that causes nuisance conditions and threatens people's health.  When tires are burned, they produce noxious gases and petroleum residue, both of which can be harmful to people and the environment.

In addition, the burning of brush, cane, driftwood and forestry debris from commercial or industrial land clearing is prohibited statewide.

You must get a permit from the Goshen Fire Department before burning anything.  Starting this year, the process to obtain that permit has been automated.  The system will be available on the fire department website between January 15th and May 1st and will be 'open' between 8:30AM and 1:00PM each day open burning is allowed.  The way the system is set up, no permits will be issued before or after that 5 1/2 hour period.

A permit needs to be requested each day you wish to burn.  On days where open burning is not being permitted because of weather conditions, the system will be disabled.

No phone calls to the station or inspections of your brush piles will be required if you use the online system.  However, you must acknowledge the open burning rules before exiting the permit screen.

For residents who do not have access to a computer or the internet, a phone call to call the fire station (413-268-7161) to schedule an inspection and receive a written permit for the season is required.  Please note - inspections will only be completed on Friday mornings so plan accordingly.  The permit will need to be activated each morning you wish to burn by calling the fire station.  The answering machine will be updated with whether or not burning is allowed on that particular day.  If it is being allowed, residents need to leave their name, address and phone number.  Massachusetts State law requires the fire department to keep track of each fire each day open burning is allowed.  Having your contact information allows us to contact you in the event conditions change.

Fires need to be started by noon and fully extinguished by 4PM.  Failure to follow these rules can result in the revokation of your permit for the remainder of the open burning season.

The best news of all is that there is no fee for this permit.

(January 11, 2012)