Cariboo OBSCR

Why Regulate Open Burning and Smoke?

It is evident from ongoing research that both short and long term exposure to air pollution can cause adverse health effects. Particulate Matter (PM) is one of the main constituents of smoke. PM can remain suspended in the air for days, and may be inhaled and deposited deep in the respiratory system. Both PM10 and PM2.5 have been associated with a range of adverse health effects including hospitalization for lung and heart problems, increases in emergency room visits for lung problems, increases in days of restricted activity in adults and school absenteeism in children,  increases in  respiratory symptoms, and small reductions in measures of lung function. Increases in particle ­concentrations are also associated with an increased risk of premature death. A review of  medical studies has shown that there is no apparent threshold for adverse health effects related to PM10 or PM2.5. This has prompted governments to review and strengthen air quality criteria for PM in order to reduce its risk to Canadians. Open burning including: forestry resource management, residential, land clearing development, industrial, agricultural, residential/backyard, construction and demolition waste disposal as well as resource management open fires creates smoke, and thus PM. This can effect air quality on scales from neighbourhoods to valleys to entire airsheds. Outside the Lower Fraser Valley in the year 2000, open burning contributed 37.5% of the provinces total annual PM2.5 emissions.

 Before You Burn

  • Make sure you comply with Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Open Burning Requirements.
  • Call the Provincial Venting and Air Quality Information Line at 1-888-281-2992 to ensure open burning restrictions are not in effect and to ensure that weather is good for smoke dispersion. Press ‘5’ for Cariboo Region.

Open Burning Requirements

The B.C. government proclaimed the Open Burning Smoke Control Regulation in 1993. It applies to fires for purposes such as land clearing, silviculture, forestry, wildlife habitat enhancement, and domestic range improvement. The intent of the regulation is to reduce smoke emissions and impacts from these sources without requiring an air emission permit from the B.C. Ministry of Environment. An air emission permit is not required for open burning of debris on a parcel of land, provided all of the following conditions are met:

  1. there are no open burning restrictions in effect (see Burning Restrictions section);
  2.  favourable weather exists for smoke dispersion (see Required Atmospheric Conditions section);
  3.  prohibited and/or noxious materials are not burned (see Prohibited Materials section);
  4. debris is burned on land it originated from; burning is conducted greater than 100 metres from neighbouring residences and businesses and
  5. greater than 500 metres from schools, hospitals, and continuing care facilities;
  6. smoke emissions will not pose a visibility hazard to airports or highways;
  7. the burn complies with any applicable municipal, regional district, or improvement district bylaw that is more restrictive than the regulation;
  8. open burning is conducted in accordance with the Wildfire Act and Regulation;
  9. for cities, towns, and villages:
  •  the smoke release period must not exceed 72 consecutive hours
  •  no open burning has occurred on the parcel of land at any time during the preceding 15 days
  •  smoke may be released during open burning on a parcel of land no more than 4 separate occasions during a calendar year

10. for areas other than cities, towns, and villages:

  •  the smoke release period must not exceed 96 consecutive hours

What is Particulate Matter?

Particulate Matter? (PM) includes minute solid or liquid particles that are suspended in the air, e.g. dust, dirt, soot and smoke. PM can be breathed deep into the lungs, aggravating heart and lung disease. Two types of PM are defined by size, PM10 and PM2.5. PM2.5 consists of particles 2.5 micrometers (µm) in diameter or less and PM10 consists of particles 10 micrometers or less. The fraction of PM2.5 contained within PM10 is referred to as the fine fraction while the remaining particles greater in size than 2.5µm but smaller than 10µm are referred to as the coarse fraction. PM2.5 are also generally know as fine particles.

Ministry of Environment Cariboo Region
Contact us to find out more about:

•   General air quality enquiries or complaints.
•   Regulation interpretation;
•   Open burning permit applications;
•   Custom Venting Index Forecasts

400-640 Borland Street
Williams Lake, BC
V2G 4T1 Phone: 250-398-4530

Report Violations To: 
Ministry of Environment Conservation Officer
Service 24-Hour Hotline 1-877-952-7277


What You Need to Know Before You Burn

Required Atmospheric Conditions

Burning when atmospheric conditions are favourable for dispersion prevents smoke impacts. Atmospheric stability, mixing height and winds all affect how smoke is dispersed. The ventilation index (VI) measures the ability of the atmosphere to disperse smoke emissions. Environment Canada forecasts ventilation indices as part of their Quesnel, Williams Lake, 100 Mile House and Puntzi Mountain Smoke Control Forecasts. Refer to the Cariboo Region Ventilation Zones section (below) to determine which forecast applies to your area.

Open burning of debris must not be initiated or new material added if atmospheric mixing is insufficient to provide rapid dispersion of smoke emissions or if the air flow will cause the smoke to negatively impact on a nearby population or cause pollution.  Please note that ventilation indices normally drop to Poor after sunset.

Unless otherwise specified in a locally developed Forest District Smoke Management Plan (contact your local Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations District office), The VI must be forecast as:

. Good (afternoon) for the day any open burn is started and
. Good or Fair (afternoon) for the second day of smoke release.

If the VI is not available for your area, you must conduct an on-site test burn on the day of the proposed burn, lasting no longer than 60 minutes, to evaluate whether weather conditions are conducive to good dispersion.  Alternatively, you can obtain a customized spot venting forecast.

Debris must not be added to an existing burn if:

  • weather conditions change and the ventilation index becomes Poor, ie. you must re-assess ventilation conditions before adding any additional material after the initial day of ignition;
  • local winds make smoke dispersion inadequate;
  • restrictions have been imposed by the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, or any other regulatory agency.

Open Burning Restrictions

The Ministry of Environment has the legislative authority to restrict open burning for specified areas and periods by requiring a permit or approval to open burn. Similarly, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations has the ability to restrict open fires because of fire hazard. To determine if government open burning restrictions are in effect, you must call the Ministry of Environment Ventilation and Air Quality Information Hotline before you burn (1-888-281-2992 and press ‘5’ for Cariboo Region)

Exemptions to the Regulation

The Open Burning Smoke Control Regulation does not apply to:
•   agricultural and residential (‘backyard’) burning of foliage, weed, crops, or stubble.

Check with your local government for any bylaws related to these kinds of burning;
•   Resource management open fires

Contact your local Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations district office for more information.

Prohibited Materials

  • Asphalt & asphalt products
  • biomedical waste
  • demolition waste
  • domestic waste
  • drywall
  • fuel & lubricant containers
  • manure
  • paint
  • tar paper
  • plastics
  • railway ties
  • rubber
  • special waste
  • treated lumber
  • tires

Copies of the OBSCR Copies of the Environmental Management Act and the Open Burning Smoke Control Regulation may be viewed at any government office or online at Many public libraries provide internet access at no charge.

Cariboo Region Ventilation Zones

Contact the Ministry of Environment for a map of the following venting index zones (250-398-4530):

Quesnel  . Williams Lake  . 100 Mile House  .  Puntzi Mountain


Ventilation Index
1) Ministry of Environment Ventilation Hotline (1­888-281-2992 Press ‘5’ for Cariboo Region)
2) BC Ministry of Environment Web Page:
Air Quality, and Open Burning Information Online

•  Ministry of Environment Air Quality Online:

Other Related Agencies

•   Contact your Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations district office, municipality, or fire department regarding other conditions or restrictions.
•   Call 1-888-797-1717 to obtain a Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations burn registration number.