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Confusion About Burning Leaves Likely To Be Examined with Proposed Legislation

By Rhonda Miller | Published 31 Jan 2012 11:13pm | comments
Arnold Toth of Biloxi mulches his leaves with the lawnmover.

There’s some confusion about whether Mississippi residents are allowed to burn leaves and branches. The issue may be cleared up when new legislation is introduced this session.  But for now, MPB’s Rhonda Miller finds it’s a yard-by-yard decision.

Walking through the dry leaves piled deep in his yard in the Holly Hills neighborhood of Biloxi, Arnold Toth says he’s never checked on whether he’s allowed to burn leaves.

"I myself mulch the leaves with the lawnmower and it makes good fertilizer for the ground. So that’s how we solve our problem of too many leaves in the yard." Toth thinks the houses in his community are too close to for burning leaves.

But in some neighborhoods, especially rural areas, it’s customary to pile up yard debris and burn it.

"I know that a resident from Brandon was burning leaves in her backyard and was approached by someone from DEQ, I don’t what their official title was, and told they could not do that."

That’s State representative Mark Baker, who is also the attorney for the city of Brandon.  Baker says the controversy goes back more than a year when an official from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality surprised the resident with the information that burning is not allowed.

"The person at DEQ just would not be dissuaded and said there’s a state law that prohibits that and told her to put the fire out.," he says.

Baker reviewed state law and says he doesn’t agree with DEQ’s interpretation that burning is prohibited in the state.  He plans to introduce legislation this session to give local governments the authority to make decisions about burning vegetative material.

Some fire chiefs used to issue permits to burn, thinking they had the authority.  For weather and safety information, many people call the Mississippi Forestry Commission, where Mike Gray is a dispatcher.

"Well, as far as burning any waste, I’ve never been familiar with anybody that’s called and asked to burn some," Gray says. "If people call and say they want to burn some piles, as far as I know, all they’re burning are limbs and leaves and pine straw and that’s what they tell us, just where they’ve been cleaning out in their yard."

Despite several requests, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality said Tuesday it would not comment on the existing regulations for burning.



Arnold Toth of Biloxi mulches his leaves with the lawnmover.



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