Smoke and particles from open air fires can cause a nuisance to neighbours, interfere with normal daily activities and, if severe, can also affect residents’ health. A nuisance exists if a release of odours, gas, fumes, smoke, dust, particles or aerosols on residential premises has caused or is likely to give rise to a risk of:

  • harm to human health or safety or personal injury
  • property damage or a loss of amenity
  • environmental harm or environmental nuisance.

Open air fire and smoke nuisance includes:

  • smoke from any fire in a residential area (excepting in instances listed under 'Open air fire and smoke exemptions' below)
  • smoke generated from a chimney that is not being used for internal heating purposes within a residential dwelling
  • smoke from a fire used to dispose of waste from your garden or residence.

Can I have an open air fire in a residential area?

Open Air Fires are Permitted in some circumstances and are regulated by Council Local Laws and the Fire and Emergency Services Act 1990. Any open air fire must also not create smoke pollution or a nuisance to neighbours (refer below for more information)

Open air fire exemptions:

  • The fire has been lit to cook food in or on a gas, wood, or coal fire, barbeque or hangi.
  • The fire has been authorised under the Fire and Emergency Services Act 1990.
  • The fire only involves the lighting of a match, cigarette lighter, candle, lamp, blow torch or other such device, or the use of a bee smoker.
  • The fire lit out-doors, is enclosed in a fireplace so constructed as to prevent the escape of fire or any burning material and adequate precautions are taken to prevent the spread of fire

If I am undertaking an activity that may cause smoke pollution what can I do?

Reducing smoke from open air fires

  • Consider whether or not you need to start a fire or if there is an alternative option that may meet your needs.
  • Observe weather conditions before lighting fires, preferably choosing a calm day.
  • Green waste or general household rubbish cannot be burnt.
  • Regular composting reduces the need for burning in the open air.
  • Take large branches or trees to Council’s Refuse and Recycle Centre.
  • Consider utilising Council’s FOGO waste service.
  • Avoid burning wet or green vegetation as it smoulders and causes excessive smoke.
  • Give fires maximum air-flow for efficiency and less smoke emissions.

Reducing smoke from a chimney

  • Do not burn chipboard, painted or treated timber.
  • Choose dry firewood that has been air dried for at least 8 months. Wet or green wood causes more smoke.
  • Store firewood under cover, stacked in a criss-cross pattern to allow air to circulate.
  • Burn the fire brightly.  Start with dry kindling and gradually add larger wood pieces. An efficient fire should have red glowing embers and bright swirling flames.
  • Keep air controls open at night.  Avoid shutting down the air controls overnight.
  • Check your chimney to see if it is smoking too much.
  • Clean and maintain your chimney and wood heater regularly, e.g. check the glass door for cracks and seals for deterioration, check the firebox for rust and lubricate the air-slide control with high temperature grease.

How do I make a complaint about smoke pollution?

People are sometimes unaware that their activities are causing a nuisance. Ipswich City Council encourages all residents and business operators to talk to their neighbours first about nuisance problems and only make a complaint if the issue remains unresolved.

Before you proceed with lodging a complaint, please refer to the below questions to see if council is the appropriate contact for your issue:

If you answered no to all of the questions listed above, please follow the below steps to lodge your complaint with council. Have the following information ready:

  • details of the source and nature of the issue
  • where the issue is coming from and how is it affecting you? – i.e the specific address/location of the nuisance, if you cannot provide the address council may be unable to take specific action.
  • specific information on how often the issue is happening e.g. what time on what day.

Contact council by one of the methods below:

Note: If the issue is occurring outside of business hours, the complaint can be actioned by council’s after-hours patrol officers. Please contact Council when the issue is occurring (24 hours) so that an investigating officer can be tasked to attend to the location while the nuisance is occurring.

How does council manage open fires and smoke pollution complaints?

Council will initially attend the property causing the issue and determine if a smoke pollution is detectable or the cause is evident. As part of this inspection, the following may occur:

  • If no smoke pollution is detected, council officers will contact the person who has made the report and see if further information is available or advise of outcome.
  • If a breach is identified, council will speak to the residents causing the issue to attempt to resolve it. If necessary, council may issue a compliance notice.
  • If a compliance notice is issued, a follow up process is put in place and will be undertaken to determine if the breach is ongoing after the expiration of the notice.
  • If the breach is found to be continued then further action, including the issuing of infringement notices, may occur.