Wood Heaters and Open Fires

Smoke and air pollution affects everyone but there are some simple steps you can take to reduce its impact.

Smoke from wood heaters is a major cause of air pollution and can harm the environment and your health. Council is working with the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) to reduce wood smoke in the Bega Valley Shire, and encouraging people to take the following steps to reduce wood smoke pollution:

  • Don't let your heater smolder overnight – keep enough air in the fire to maintain a flame.
  • Burn only dry, aged hardwood in your wood heater. Unseasoned wood has lots of moisture, which causes a fire to smoke.
  • Store your wood under cover in a dry, ventilated area. Freshly cut wood needs to be stored for at least eight to twelve months.
  • Never burn rubbish, driftwood or painted or treated wood. These are sure to pollute the air and can produce poisonous gases.
  • When lighting a cold heater, use plenty of dry kindling to establish a good fire quickly.
  • Use several small logs rather than one large log and stack them loosely in your heater, so air can circulate around them. Don't cram the firebox full. 
  • Keep the flame lively and bright. Your fire should only smoke when you first light it and when you add extra fuel. Open the air controls fully for 5 minutes before and 15 to 20 minutes after reloading the heater.
  • Check your chimney regularly to see how well your fire is burning. If there is smoke coming from the chimney, increase the air supply to your fire.
  • Have the chimney cleaned every year to prevent creosote build-up.
  • If you are buying a wood heater, make sure it has a compliance plate showing it meets the Australian Standard (AS/NZS 4013:1999).

Council has a factsheet to assist wood heater operators and the neighbours in understanding the legal obligations of operating a wood heater, a copy of the factsheet can be obtained here. More detailed information is available from the Wood-Smoke handbook: Wood heaters, firewood and operator practice on the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities website. You can visit it here.

Wood heater installation

Wood heater ownership is on the rise in NSW. It is expected that, as gas and electricity prices rise, more people will install wood burning heaters. Homeowners are required by law to obtain permission from Council before installing a wood burning heater. If you would like to install a wood burning heater, you can fill in the application form or contact Council’s Customer Service team on (02) 6499 2222.

Problems with smoke from a neighbour’s wood heater?

If you have difficulties with wood smoke pollution from a neighbour, let them know. Often people don’t realise that their fire is producing excessive smoke, because they are inside enjoying the warmth of their wood fire. 

For more information contact the Environment Protection Authority on 131 555 or visit their website, or call Council's Customer Service team on (02) 6499 2222, as Council staff may be able to assist you.

Burning of open fires and incinerators

Council has introduced controls related to burning vegetation and other matter in the open. Under the POEO (Clean Air) Regulations 2010 anyone burning in the open in the Bega Valley Shire must comply with Council’s Burning off in open areas Policy, to view the policy visit our Public Policies page and search for burning off in open areas.  Should you require Council approval to burn vegetation you can fill in the application form or contact Council's Customer Service team on (02) 6499 2222.


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