General Information about Controlled Burning and Wildland Fire Safety

Controlled Burning


Before you burn


Be prepared

Understand that laws about burning

Respect the weather

Never leave your fire

Be Prepared

  • Is there another way to get rid of debris?
  • Can you use it as mulch or compost? is it recyclable?
  • Gather tools you will need.
  • Keep a shovel or hoe, rake, attached hose or dependable water supply close at hand.
  • Consider your capabilities.
  • Do you have enough time to remain with the fire?
  • Is someone available to help should the fire escape?
  • Are you physically capable of staying with your fire and controlling it?
  • Reduce the risks.
  • Divide large piles into manageable small piles.
  • Separate your fire from surrounding leaves and dry grass.
  • Clear a break down to the mineral soil.
  • Be aware that heavy logs and stumps will burn and smoke for a long time.
  • Don’t burn near homes or other structures.
  • Stay away from roads.
  • Don’t burn near other flammable fuels.
  • Check for overhanging branches.
  • Have a plan.


Brushpile burn

Understand the laws about burning

Burleigh County has controlled burn procedures for area residents. Landowners, equipment operators and outdoor enthusiasts are requested to take proper precautions during all open burning situations:

  • Citizens should contact the Bismarck/Burleigh Combined Communications Center at 223-9111 before a controlled burn is started so that emergency responders are not dispatched for reports of a fire when it is a controlled burn.
  • Be prepared to give your name, contact number, location of controlled burn, and anticipated duration of the burn. After the burning is completed and the fire is out, again contact the Bismarck/Burleigh Combined Communications Center to inform them of the completion.
  • A controlled burn needs to be physically monitored at all times. Once the fire is started, don't walk away until the fire is completely out.
  • Be prepared if the fire gets out of hand. Call 911 immediately and have resources available to mitigate the effects (water, extinguisher, shovels, tractor).

Residents are urged to follow the precautions in the ND Rural Fire Danger Guide which lists the outdoor activity guidelines for the five fire danger ratings (Low, Moderate, High, Very High, and Extreme). Open burning and off-road motorized travel is prohibited when the Fire Rating is in the Extreme Category.

For more information on Burn Bans and Fire Danger rating click here.

North Dakota Fire Danger Guide (pdf)

Respect the Weather

  • Check daily weather forecasts.
  • How long has it been since the last rainfall?
  • What is the relative humidity?
  • It is safer to burn a few days after a soaking rain or when the humidity is higher than 30%.
  • Are there high or gusty winds?
  • Wind causes branches, leaves and pine needles to dry out.
  • A debris fire will burn more intensely when it’s windy.
  • Gusty winds can blow sparks into areas you don’t want to burn.
  • What is the wind direction?
  • Think about where your smoke will blow.
  • Don’t burn if your smoke will blow onto roads, airports or occupied buildings.
  • Don’t burn during an atmospheric inversion. Smoke will settle and increase air pollution.

Never leave your fire

  • Watch for flying sparks.
  •  Pay attention to smoke drift.
  • Notice changes in the weather.
  • If you are concerned about safety, put the fire out.
  • Make sure it is dead out before you leave.

Wildland Fire Safety

Keeping your house safe from fire

Michele Steinberg of NFPA’s Wildland Fire Operations Division provides seven tips to help keep homes from igniting in a wildfire.

Every year, wildfires burn across the U.S., and more and more people are living where wildfires are a real risk. Nearly 45 million homes abut or intermingle with wildlands and more than 72,000 U.S. communities are now at risk. But by working together residents can make their own property - and their neighborhood - much safer from wildfire.


Before a wildfire threatens your area…


In and around your home

  • Clear leaves and other debris from gutters, eaves, porches and decks. This prevents embers from igniting your home.
  • Remove dead vegetation and other items from under your deck or porch, and within 10 feet of the house. Learn more about the basics of defensible space on the Firewise website.
  • Screen or box-in areas below patios and decks with wire mesh to prevent debris and combustible materials from accumulating.
  • Remove flammable materials (firewood stacks, propane tanks) within 30 feet of your home’s foundation and outbuildings, including garages and sheds. If it can catch fire, don’t let it touch your house, deck or porch.
  • Wildfire can spread to tree tops. Prune trees so the lowest branches are 6 to 10 feet from the ground.
  • Keep your lawn hydrated and maintained. If it is brown, cut it down to reduce fire intensity. Dry grass and shrubs are fuel for wildfire.
  • Don’t let debris and lawn cuttings linger. Dispose of these items quickly to reduce fuel for fire.
  • Inspect shingles or roof tiles. Replace or repair those that are loose or missing to prevent ember penetration.
  • Cover exterior attic vents with metal wire mesh no larger than 1/8 inch to prevent sparks from entering the home.
  • Enclose under-eave and soffit vents or screens with metal mesh to prevent ember entry.
  • Learn more about how to protect your home and property at

Creating an emergency plan

  • Assemble an emergency supply kit and place it in a safe spot. Remember to include important documents, medications and personal identification.
  • Develop an emergency evacuation plan and practice it with everyone in your home.
  • Plan two ways out of your neighborhood and designate a meeting place.
  • Learn more about emergency preparedness planning on NFPA’s emergency planning webpage.

In your community:

  • Contact your local planning/zoning office to find out if your home is in a high wildfire risk area, and if there are specific local or county ordinances you should be following.
  • If you are part of a homeowner association, work with them to identify regulations that incorporate proven preparedness landscaping, home design and building material use.
  • Talk to your local fire department about how to prepare, when to evacuate, and the response you and your neighbors can expect in the event of a wildfire.
  • Learn about wildfire risk reduction efforts, including how land management agencies use prescribed fire to manage local landscapes.
  • Learn how you can make a positive difference in your community.
During the time a wildfire is in your area…
  • Stay aware of the latest news and updates from your local media and fire department. Get your family, home and pets prepared to evacuate.
  • Place your emergency supply kit and other valuables in your vehicle.
  • Move patio or deck furniture, cushions, door mats and potted plants in wooden containers either indoors or as far away from the home, shed and garage as possible.
  • Close and protect your home’s openings, including attic and basement doors and vents, windows, garage doors and pet doors to prevent embers from penetrating your home.
  • Connect garden hoses and fill any pools, hot tubs, garbage cans, tubs, or other large containers with water. Firefighters have been known to use the hoses to put out fires on rooftops.
  • Leave as early as possible, before you’re told to evacuate. Do not linger once evacuation orders have been given. Promptly leaving your home and neighborhood clears roads for firefighters to get equipment in place to fight the fire, and helps ensure residents’ safety.
After a wildfire has been contained…
  • Continue to listen to news updates for information about the fire. Return home only when authorities say it is safe.
  • Visit FEMA/ for more information regarding wildfire after an emergency.