Open burning in Shelby County is prohibited. Exceptions can be granted under specific conditions that do not interface with the maintenance of acceptable air quality or create a public nuisance.
The Health Department’s Air Pollution Control Section operates under Memphis City (16-50) or Shelby County (3-16) codes, and works in conjunction with local Fire Department in issuing permits. At land clearing sites, temporary permits for the controlled burning of waste trees and brush can be issued. Grinding or chipping is the preferred method of disposal, however, permitted open burning of these materials with proper emission control is acceptable.
The Fire Departments are concerned with preventing the spread of fire and potential fire hazards to nearby citizens. The health Department is interested in minimizing the amount of smoke, fly ash released into the air, and the air quality index that also impacts nearby residents.
Burning is to be conducted when ambient conditions ensure maximum dispersion of smoke. Burning is not allowed when the air quality index for the Memphis / Shelby area is in the “unhealthful” (code orange) or higher ranges (code red or code purple). Burn permit holders are not allowed to burn when projected weather conditions and pollution modeling indicates a code orange or higher condition is expected. To determine if burning has been restricted, you must call the Health Department’s Computerized Local Air Index Reporting System (CLAIR) at 222-9167 or 222-9573 each day.