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Uphams Corner Resident Gets Yard Hosed and Lesson from Fire Department


Monadnock Street Resident Tries Old Standard - Burning the Leaves

In days of yore, the smell of burning leaves was a hallmark of the autumn season.  Plumes of smoke and the strong smell of burning signaled another season of leaves rapidly converting into carbon dioxide and ash.  Many towns within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts still allow open burning of leaves with restrictions. 

Open Burning of LeavesIt was a day in late November 2012 in the Uphams Corner neighborhood of Boston.  The time of day was after sunset when light from the flames of burning leaves easily cuts through the dense darkness. Several residents on the street had taken notice of "something wrong."  One was almost breathless: "The smell of smoke was so strong in the house, I thought my house was on fire.  I checked every floor including the basement."  Another resident sitting on his front porch asked: "Do you smell that? Where's the fire?" 

The alarming conditions had been caused by a Monadnock Street resident who had chosen to burn his leaves in the driveway next to his house.  He was minding his own business, hard at work, carefully raking his leaves into the open fire, when a big red fire engine stopped unceremoniously at his doorstep. 


"A Small Fire" Extinquished

According to a fireman Matt from Engine 21 at 641 Columbia Rd, open burning is prohibited in Boston except under specific circumstances including:  you must have a permit from the Fire Department and the open fire must be a certain distance (75') from all other buildings.

Of course, neither condition was in place for this Uphams Corner resident.  The open flame was approximately 10-15 feet from his home and he did not have a permit.  So the fire department quickly put out his fire ("It was small," they said).

Even if he had requested a permit, it would not have been granted.  Twenty-two (22) towns expressly prohibit open burning due to the density of population and the close proximity of buildings within their borders. including the towns of Boston, Brookline and Cambridge.

The responsibility for regulating open burning falls under the Commonwealth's Department of Environmental Protection and for local control under the town's fire department.


The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) provides a succinct and nicely formated primer on "open burning." 

Open Burning: Answers to Your Burning Questions

Full text of 310 CMR 7.07

Another useful document is the Open Burning Clarifier DEP/ Reference 48:13




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Posted: December 8, 2012     Nancy J Conrad


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