Do Backyard Fires Create Air Pollution? (Expert Advice)

I love to host backyard barbecues, but I also want to be mindful of my carbon footprint. That’s why I started looking for ways to reduce my use of fossil fuels and increase my use of renewable energy sources.

It turns out that one easy way to do this is by burning wood in an outdoor fire pit or chiminea. But before you light up those briquettes, let’s take a look at how backyard fires affect air pollution and water quality:

How harmful is a simple backyard fire?
Backyard fires can contribute to air pollution and have negative impacts on health.
Burning dry, untreated wood and using a fire pit with a lid can help reduce smoke and pollution.
There are alternatives to backyard fires for outdoor entertainment, such as electric or propane heaters.
Regulations and restrictions on backyard fires vary by location, so it’s important to check with your local fire department or air quality management district.

Do Backyard Fires Create Air Pollution?

The answer to this question depends on the type of fire you’re burning and where it’s taking place. 

For example, if you are burning leaves in your backyard, the smoke may not cause any noticeable adverse effects. However, if you burn garbage or materials that contain harmful chemicals or toxins (such as electronics), the smoke will likely cause health problems for those nearby.

To help illustrate this idea, let’s consider two common types of backyard fires: leaf piles and trash fires.

If you want to enjoy a backyard fire pit, make sure it is legal in your area. Check out our article on backyard fire pit legality to learn more about the regulations and restrictions you need to consider before lighting up.

How Does Smoke From A Backyard Fire Affect Water Quality?

[The] smoke from backyard fires contains a number of toxic chemicals, including arsenic, benzene, and formaldehyde. These chemicals can be harmful to the environment and human health when released into the air. 

When the chemicals from a backyard fire settle on nearby soil or vegetation, they may eventually enter into groundwater or surface water through runoff. The particulates in smoke may also carry with them heavy metals like lead and mercury that can accumulate in soils and plants over time.

How Do Backyard Fires Affect The Air Quality In My Neighborhood?

Backyard burning is not free from the risks of air pollution. Although there are no specific studies on this subject, it is safe to assume that the smoke coming from your backyard fire is likely to have some type of negative impact on your neighbors’ health and well-being and could even contribute to climate change.

The smoke produced by these fires contains particulate matter, which can cause respiratory problems including lung cancer, asthma, and bronchitis. In addition, it’s also been found to contain harmful heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury, and lead (all of which are known carcinogens).

If you have a metal fire pit in your backyard, rust can be a common problem. To prevent rust from forming and keep your fire pit in good condition, check out our expert tips on preventing rust on metal structures.

Does A Backyard Fire Contribute To Global Climate Change?

Even though natural gas is a cleaner-burning fuel than wood, it still produces carbon dioxide (CO2) when burned. 

When you add the carbon dioxide produced by burning your firewood to the amount produced by your daily activities and those of family members, pets, and neighbors, you can quickly see that backyard fires contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. 

In fact, because they are so easy and inexpensive to start in comparison with other fuels such as propane or electricity, backyard fires are a major source of greenhouse gases worldwide.

The good news is that wood burning does not necessarily contribute to climate change if new trees are planted after old ones have been harvested for firewood use. In this case, the CO2 released when burning wood would be absorbed back into the earth as part of photosynthesis from newly growing trees over time. 

However, in many cases where firewood has been cut down for years on end without any replacement tree growth occurring afterward as in some parts of Africa where deforestation has led people there turn more frequently toward woodburning as an alternative source of energy it’s likely that more CO2 will remain in our atmosphere due to its lack replacement plant life being planted

Are There Any Health Risks Associated With Breathing In Smoke From A Backyard Fire?

There are several risks associated with breathing in smoke from a backyard fire.

The most common health problem caused by breathing in smoke is eye irritation, which can lead to sneezing, coughing, and watery eyes.

Breathing in air contaminated by smoke can cause asthma attacks or aggravate existing asthma symptoms in people who have this condition. 

For example, if you’re allergic to pollen and have an allergy attack while burning weeds on your lawn, your lungs may become inflamed when you breathe in the smoke from your lawn mower’s engine because both contain diesel fuel (an additive used for combustion). This could make your asthma worse than usual and possibly even send you to the emergency room!

Do you want to enjoy your backyard without feeling like you’re being watched? There are several ways to create privacy in a small backyard. Check out our guide on making a small backyard more private to learn about creative solutions like planting hedges or installing screens.

Can I Use An Outdoor Fire Pit To Burn Trash Or Household Garbage?

A backyard fire can be a great way to make your backyard more enjoyable. But you must follow state and local regulations because some types of materials can cause air pollution or poison your water supply if they are burned incorrectly.

Here are some tips for burning safely:

Only burn wood, charcoal, or paper in an outdoor fire pit (also known as a chiminea). Do not burn trash or household garbage in an outdoor fire pit. This includes plastics, metal cans, glass containers, or other non-combustibles like rubber tires. These materials will release toxic chemicals into the air when burned.

Never leave an outdoor fire unattended while it’s burning; this is especially true if children are present because they could get too close to the flames and get burned themselves! 

Also, keep pets away from your burning material so that they aren’t harmed by sparks flying off into their faces either

Be sure any embers carried by wind currents don’t land on nearby flammable objects such as dry grasses which could ignite them sending out sparks again towards nearby homes.”

Can You Get Sick From Breathing In Smoke From Backyard Burning?

Yes, breathing in smoke from a backyard fire can cause coughing, sneezing, and watery eyes. Breathing in smoke from a backyard fire may also cause eye irritation.

If you have asthma or other respiratory conditions, exposure to the smoke could result in breathing problems for you.

A backyard greenhouse can be a great addition to your outdoor space, but how much does it cost? Check out our article on the cost of a backyard greenhouse to learn more about the different factors that can affect the price, such as the size, materials, and location.

What Are The Effects Of Backyard Fires On Human Health?

Backyard fires are by no means a clean alternative to burning trash in an incinerator or most other household waste reduction methods. In fact, many air pollution and environmental agencies warn against using backyard burning as a method of waste disposal because it can create harmful emissions.

Just like wood smoke from indoor wood-burning stoves and fireplaces, outdoor wood smoke contains potentially harmful chemicals such as carbon monoxide and particulate matter (PM). 

PM is classified into three size ranges: PM10 (particles less than 10 microns in diameter), PM2.5 (particles less than 2.5 microns in diameter), and ultrafine particles (those smaller than 0.1 microns). 

The smallest particles are of greatest concern because they can travel deep into the lungs where they can cause serious health problems including heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, and respiratory diseases such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Common Types of Air Pollutants from Backyard Fires

Type of PollutantSourcesHealth Effects
Particulate MatterBurning wood, leaves, or other organic matterAggravation of respiratory conditions, heart disease, stroke
Carbon MonoxideIncomplete combustion of wood or other fuelsHeadaches, dizziness, nausea, death
Nitrogen OxidesHigh-temperature burning of wood or other fuelsRespiratory irritation, inflammation, increased susceptibility to respiratory infections
Volatile Organic CompoundsBurning wood or other organic matterEye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, nausea, damage to liver, kidneys, and central nervous system

How Do Backyard Fires Affect The Local Ecosystem?

As with any fire, smoke from a backyard fire can have a negative impact on the environment.

Smoke from backyard burning can kill plants and trees, making it difficult for animals to survive in the area. The thick smoke also makes it hard for animals to breathe and may cause respiratory problems in them. In addition, smoke can disrupt the food chain by killing some insects that are food sources for birds or other animals.

If you’re dealing with bees in your backyard, it can be helpful to know how to control them safely and effectively. Check out our guide on controlling bees in the backyard to learn about natural methods like using essential oils or creating a bee-friendly garden to keep these helpful insects at a safe distance.

Are There Any Safety Concerns Related To Using An Outdoor Fire Pit Or Chiminea In My Yard?

There are several safety concerns related to using an outdoor fire pit or chiminea.

Use a fire pit or chiminea in a well-ventilated area. The smoke produced by burning items is not harmful to your health, but it can irritate your eyes and lungs if you are exposed to it for long periods of time.

Use a fire pit or chiminea on a non-combustible surface. You should use bricks, concrete, stone pavers, gravel or sand as the base of your fire pit or chiminea so that the heat does not damage your lawn or garden soil below. Do not use leaves as a base material because they will catch on fire!

Use a fire pit or chiminea away from overhanging branches and trees so that falling embers do not start new fires on other parts of the property during use (the same applies when using charcoal grills).

Tips for Reducing Air Pollution from Backyard Fires

Burn dry, untreated wood to reduce smoke and pollution.
Use a fire pit with a lid to contain smoke and reduce emissions.
Avoid burning trash or yard waste, which can release harmful chemicals into the air.
Consider using alternatives to backyard fires, like electric or propane heaters.
Check with your local fire department or air quality management district for any regulations or restrictions on backyard fires.

Can I Burn Cardboard And Paper Products In An Outdoor Fire Pit Or Chiminea?

No. It is not recommended to burn cardboard or paper products in an outdoor fire pit. Burning these materials produces a lot of smoke, which can cause breathing problems, especially for people with asthma or other respiratory conditions.

Cardboard boxes and packing materials are made from recycled materials, so they should be recycled rather than burned in your backyard fire. You can also choose to discard them properly by placing them in your curbside recycling bin.


We hope that this article has helped you understand the risks of backyard fires and chimineas, as well as how to minimize them. We also encourage you to share our content with your friends and family in order to help them stay safe while enjoying their own outdoor fire pit or chiminea!

Further Reading

Backyard Recreational Fires: A Guide from the EPA – This guide from the Environmental Protection Agency provides information on how to burn wood safely and responsibly in your backyard fire pit.

Just How Harmful Is That Backyard Fire? What Our Air Quality Expert Found Will Alarm You – This article from Multnomah County in Oregon discusses the air quality impacts of backyard fires and provides tips for reducing pollution.

The Environmental Dangers of Fire Pits – This article from Scientific American explores the potential environmental hazards associated with backyard fire pits and suggests ways to minimize the impact.


How can I reduce the pollution from my backyard fire pit?

There are several ways to minimize the pollution from your backyard fire pit, such as burning dry, untreated wood, avoiding burning trash or yard waste, and using a fire pit with a lid to reduce smoke.

Are there any health risks associated with backyard fires?

Yes, the smoke from backyard fires can aggravate respiratory conditions like asthma and bronchitis, and can also increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.

What are some alternatives to backyard fires for outdoor entertainment?

Consider alternatives like electric or propane heaters, outdoor ovens or grills, or even just gathering around a table with friends and family.

Can I burn anything in my backyard fire pit?

No, it is important to only burn dry, untreated wood in your fire pit. Burning trash, plastics, or yard waste can release harmful chemicals into the air and harm the environment.

Are there any regulations or restrictions on backyard fires?

Regulations and restrictions on backyard fires vary by location. Check with your local fire department or air quality management district to learn about any rules or permits that may be required.