Smoke, ash and fumes complaints

Brisbane City Council has regulations to control smoke, ash and fumes as a result of lighting fires in residential and commercial areas.

Under Council's Health, Safety and Amenity Local Law 2009, you cannot light a fire within Council boundaries except for any of the following reasons:

  • where the fire is used to cook food for human consumption in a barbecue or similar structure (but not a fire on the ground)
  • for approved theatrical or similar approved entertainment events
  • where the subject land is included in the Rural area classification (Brisbane City Plan 2014) and neither the height, width or length of the material to be consumed exceeds two metres
  • where a permit has been issued by Queensland Fire and Rescue Service
  • where the fire is required to be lit by a notice under section 69 of the Fire and Emergency Services Act 1990.

Council is continuing to allow outdoor fires for heating purposes in braziers and constructed firepits off the ground while Council’s Health, Safety and Amenity Local Law 2009 is amended. When having a fire in your brazier or firepit:

Do

  • use clean wood, gas, ethanol or charcoal
  • contain the fire in the firepit or brazier above the ground
  • supervise children
  • fully extinguish the fire with water
     

Don't

  • let smoke impact neighbours
  • burn garden vegetation, damp wood, toxic material or waste
  • have a fire on the ground or in used drums
  • use a firepit or brazier during a fire ban
  • leave a fire burning overnight

For more information on how to minimise the impact of your backyard fire, review the guidelines on the Brazier and fire pit heating trial page.

Failure to comply with the requirements outlined above may result in a Compliance Direction to put out the fire.  Failure to comply with a Compliance Direction may result in Council issuing an on-the-spot fine.

If you are burning fuel for heating or cooking, never burn anything except seasoned dry firewood, commercial hot coals or gas.

In circumstances where fires are permitted under the Health, Safety and Amenity Local Law 2009, a person is still required to comply with the Environmental Protection Act 1994 by preventing environmental nuisance and smoke impacts on neighbours.

 To minimise smoke nuisance:

  • Refrain from burning leaves and green or damp wood (please note, it is prohibited to collect driftwood or firewood from a Council park, natural area or waterway under Council’s Public Land and Council Assets Local Law 2014)
  • make sure your wood has been seasoned for 8 months, stored in a dry, aerated area, off the ground and sheltered from the rain. Stack the wood in a way that lets air flow through the wood pile, on top a pallet and do not cover with a tarp as this will trap moisture. Please also be aware that commercially bought firewood may not have been properly seasoned and requires further drying out before use
  • start the fire using small kindling and do not load the fire with large logs until the fire is burning well, or you will smother the fire and create smoke
  • locate your fire away from your property boundary
  • if you are having trouble avoiding smoke, consider whether your fire needs more air in the base or sides to encourage the drawing of oxygen through the fire. 
  • use a multipurpose, smokeless fuel.

You can dispose of garden waste:

Broad hectare burns for fuel reduction purposes involving protected vegetation are assessed as applications to interfere with protected vegetation.

Operation of a wood-fired heater in the home can cause complaints if incorrectly operated or located. Find out how to minimise nuisance from wood heaters.

Backyard burning neighbourhood letter

People are sometimes unaware that their activities are causing a nuisance. Brisbane City Council encourages all residents to talk to their neighbours about nuisance problems before making a complaint to Council.

To assist neighbours with resolving the matter without Council intervention, we have developed a template letter that is designed for neighbours to use in raising awareness of Council’s requirements and seek co-operation to address the issue in a friendly manner. 

You can download the:

Lodging a complaint

When investigating complaints about smoke, ash and fumes, Council considers:

  • the amount of smoke
  • how long smoke is emitted and the smoke's characteristics
  • how sensitive the surrounding environment is and the impact of the smoke
  • whether the person causing the smoke is doing everything they reasonably can to avoid creating a smoke impact or environmental nuisance.

Find out how to lodge a complaint about an environmental nuisance issue.

Last updated: 9 September 2020