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Air Quality and Burning Procedure

In Saint Joseph County, burning household trash, demolition and construction materials, or any other items excluding clean, non-chemically treated wood and natural vegetation is prohibited. Serious health effects can develop from the harmful chemicals that are released when burning household trash, construction materials, or other items such as furniture and hazardous wastes.

  • Air Quality Resources
  • Burn Permits

    The Department of Health issues burn permits for the burning of clean, non-chemically treated wood and natural vegetation (excluding leaves). Approval from the local township Fire Department must first be received. After the Fire Department approves the burn, an application can be submitted to the Department of Health. An Environmentalist will review the application, include any burn stipulations, and issue a permit if the burn does not create a public or environmental health hazard.

    Some recreational fires do not require a permit. To determine if your fire will require a permit, please contact your local township fire department.

    Forms and Permits

    If you live within city limits, please contact your municipality to determine burn restrictions and requirements.

    For information on prescribed burns, please contact IDEM at (574) 245-4877.

  • St. Joseph County Fire Department Contacts
    • Clay Fire Territory - (574) 272-2144
    • Madison Twp Fire Department - (574) 633-4915
    • Penn Twp Fire Department - (574) 255-5075
    • Warren Twp Fire Department - (574) 232-4028
  • Open Burn Procedure


    • Only natural vegetation derived from the property from which it is to be burned may be burned.
    • Processed lumber, paper, and all other products may not be burned.
    • The applicable county codes governing open burning are Volume IX, General Regulations, Chapter 91, Air Pollution Control, and Chapter 92, Fire Protection and Prevention.
    • This process does not apply to the burning of leaves. County Code Volume X, Chapter 92, Section 91.03 shall apply to the burning of leaves.

    Application Process

    • An application to burn shall be made on a form issued by the Department of Health.
    • The form must be completed in its entirety or it will be rejected.
    • The application shall be submitted to the Fire Department of jurisdiction.
    • It will normally take 5 working days to process the application.
    • Open Burn Application found in Forms and Permits

    Other Requirements

    • The Fire Department and Department of Health may place any reasonable and necessary conditions upon the application by placing them on or attaching them to the application.
    • The Fire Department and Department of Health may deny an application where illegal burning has occurred by the applicant or on the property listed in the application.
    • The County Sheriff may be called to ticket a person who is burning illegally.
    • The Fire Department or Department of Health may order a fire to be immediately extinguished if it presents an unreasonable threat of uncontrolled fire or a threat to public health. A complaint by a nearby resident that they are experiencing breathing problems due to the smoke is an unreasonable threat to public health and sufficient reason to order the fire be extinguished.

    Fire Department Approval

    • The Fire Department may choose to inspect the proposed fire site and materials prior to approving a permit.
    • If the Fire Department denies the application, they shall inform the applicant, and the permit will be denied.
    • Upon determining that the site and materials comply with applicable fire prevention requirements and observing no disallowed material in a burn pile, the Fire Department shall approve the application and sign it.
    • The Fire Department shall submit the permit application to the Department of Health by fax (235-9497) or by email

    Department of Health Approval

    • The Department of Health may choose to inspect the proposed fire site and materials prior to approving the permit.
    • If the Fire Department did not inspect the site prior to signing the application, the Department of Health must inspect the site prior to issuing the permit.
    • Upon determining that the application does not present a threat to human health, the Department of Health shall approve the application.
    • The Department of Health shall fax or e-mail the application to the Fire Department depending on how it was received.
    • The Department of Health will transmit a copy of the approved application to the applicant in the manner specified on the application (fax, e-mail or regular mail).