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Open burning restrictions, seek alternatives


McHenry County Department of Health (MCDH) reminds residents that year-round burning restrictions are in effect regarding the proper disposal of landscape waste on your property. Landscape waste consists of grass or shrubbery cuttings, leaves and tree limbs. The “McHenry County Public Health Ordinance: Open Burning of Landscape Waste” permits unincorporated residents to burn landscape waste on weekend days (Saturdays and Sundays) during April, May, October and November if the burn area meets the setback requirements of at least 100 feet from a school, business, church or house; 50 feet from a barn, shed or detached garage.
Most municipalities have ordinances which restrict or prohibit the burning of yard waste. In areas where there is not a ban or more restrictive ordinance, the County ordinance, which is in effect year round, must be followed. Please be advised that an Illinois EPA, Bureau of Air, Application for Open Burning Permit is required for habitat reclamation burns regardless of acreage. For more information, please contact the Illinois EPA, Bureau of Air Permit Section at (217) 782-2113.

MCDH encourages a more environmentally sound approach:
• Reduce/Reuse – Use a mulching mower for grass and leaves or a chipper for branches. Native landscaping will also reduce the need for yard waste.
• Recycle – Composting landscape waste can reduce material volume by 70 – 80% and act as a soil conditioner to improve plant growth.

Residents may also drop off landscape waste at a local facility that composts these materials into organic compounds for reuse. A listing of these services is available at, under Environmental Health, quick link – Open Burning, “other alternatives”.

Communities with ordinances that meet or exceed County standards, as well as those with total bans on burning are also listed. Call local police, fire or MCDH non-emergency number for enforcement of open burning issues. If reporting an emergency complaint that is life threatening or is a fire safety issue, call 911. Residents may also call the health department’s after-hours phone number 815-344-7421 for assistance.

Complete details about the Ordinance, suggested alternatives, exemptions and permit applications are available online at the MCDH webpage or by calling 815-334-4585.

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