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Open Air Fires and Smoke Pollution

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
  • smoke generated from a chimney
  • smoke from a fire used to dispose of waste from your garden or residence

Fire exceeding area greater than two metres

If you are looking at burning an area greater than two metres in any direction, you will require a permit from Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES).

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

Open air fire and smoke 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.

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 green 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 can I make a complaint about smoke pollution?

Discuss with your neighbour

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.

  1. Does your complaint relate to cigarette smoke?
    If you answered yes, please visit smoke free public places.
  2. Does your complaint relate to smoke from vehicles?
    If you answered yes, please visit Queensland Government.
  3. Does your complaint relate to bushfire smoke?
    If you answered yes, please contact Queensland Fire and Emergency Services on 000 or check for current bushfire incidents in QLD.

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
  • 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 will be actioned by Council’s after-hours patrol officers.  Please call when the issue is occurring regardless of the time/day of the week.

How does Council manage an open fires and smoke pollution complaint?

  1. Council sends out a letter and fact sheet to the address of the alleged offender advising them of the issue.
  2. If Council is advised that the issue has continued we will investigate further.
  3. 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 can 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, can occur.


Printable Open Air Fires and Smoke Pollution Fact Sheet